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XVIII - THE NATURE OF JUSTIFICATION AS DECLARED IN THE EPISTLES OF ST. PAUL, IN THAT UNTO THE ROMANS ESPECIALLY. — CHAP. 3 (4, 5, 10; 1 CORINTHIANS 1:30; CORINTHIANS 5:21; GALATIANS 2:16; EPHESIANS 2:8-10; PHILIPPIANS 3:8, 9.)
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Testimonies out of the Epistles of Paul the apostle — His design in the fifth chapter to the Romans — That design explained at large, and applied to the present argument — Chap. 3:24-26 explained, and the true sense of the words vindicated — The causes of justification enumerated — Apostolical inference from the consideration of them — Chap. 4, design of the disputation of the apostle therein Analysis of his discourse — Verses 4, 5, particularly insisted on; their true sense vindicated — What works excluded from the justification of Abraham — Who it is that works not — In what sense the ungodly are justified — All men ungodly antecedently unto their justification — Faith alone the means of justification on our part — Faith itself, absolutely considered, not the righteousness that is imputed unto us — Proved by sundry arguments Romans 5:l2-21 — Boasting excluded in ourselves, asserted in God — The design and sum of the apostle’s argument — Objection of Socinus removed — Comparison between the two Adams, and those that derive from them — Sin entered into the world — What sin intended — Death, what it comprises, what intended by it — The sense of these words, “inasmuch,” or, “in whom all have sinned,” cleared and vindicated — The various oppositions used by the apostle in this discourse: principally between sin or the fall, and the free gift; between the disobedience of the one, and the obedience of another; judgment on the one hand, and justification unto life on the other — The whole context at large explained, and the argument for justification by the imputation of the righteousness of Christ, fully confirmed Romans 10:3,4, explained and insisted on to the same purpose 1 Corinthians 1:30 — Christ, how of God made righteousness unto us — Answer of Bellarmine unto this testimony removed — That of Socinus disproved — True sense of the words evinced 2 Corinthians 5:21 — In what sense Christ knew no sin — Emphasis in that expression — How he was made sin for us — By the imputation of sin unto him — Mistakes of some about this expression — Sense of the ancients — Exception of Bellarmine unto this testimony answered, with other reasonings of his to the same purpose — The exceptions of others also removed Galatians 2:16 Ephesians 2:8-10 — Evidence of this testimony — Design of the apostle from the beginning of the chapter — Method of the apostle in the declaration of the grace of God — Grace alone the cause of deliverance from a state of sin — Things to be observed in the assignation of the causes of spiritual deliverances — Grace, how magnified by him — Force of the argument and evidence from thence — State of the case here proposed by the apostle — General determination of it, “By grace are ye saved” — What is it to be saved, inquired into — The same as to be justified, but not exclusively — The causes of our justification declared positively and negatively — The whole secured unto the grace of God by Christ, and our interest therein through faith alone — Works excluded — What works? — Not works of the law of Moses — Not works antecedent unto believing — Works of true believers — Not only in opposition to the grace of God, but to faith in us — Argument from those words — Reason whereon this exclusion of works is founded — To exclude boasting on our part — Boasting, wherein it consists — Inseparable from the interest of works in justification — Danger of it — Confirmation of this reason, obviating an objection — The objection stated — If we be not justified by works, of what use are they? answered Philippians 3:8, — Heads of argument from this testimony — Design of the context — Righteousness the foundation of acceptance with God — A twofold righteousness considered by the apostle — Opposite unto one another, as unto the especial and inquired after — Which of these he adhered unto, his own righteousness, or the righteousness of God; declared by the apostle with vehemency of speech — Reasons of his earnestness herein — The turning point whereon he left Judaism — The opposition made unto this doctrine by the Jews — The weight of the doctrine, and unwillingness of men to receive it — His own sense of sin and grace — Peculiar expressions used in this place, for the reasons mentioned, concerning Christ; concerning all things that are our own — The choice to be made on the case stated, whether we will adhere unto our own righteousness, or that of Christ’s, which are inconsistent as to the end of justification — Argument from this place — Exceptions unto this testimony, and argument from thence, removed — Our personal righteousness inherent, the same with respect unto the law and gospel — External righteousness only required by the law, an impious imagination — Works wrought before faith only rejected — The exception removed — Righteousness before conversion, not intended by the apostle That the way and manner of our justification before God, with all the causes and means of it, are designedly declared by the apostle in the Epistle to the Romans, chap. 3, 4, 5, as also vindicated from objections, so as to render his discourse thereon the proper seat of this doctrine, and whence it is principally to be learned, cannot modestly be denied. The late exceptions of some, that this doctrine of justification by faith without works is found only in the writings of St. Paul, and that his writings are obscure and intricate, are both false and scandalous to Christian religion, so as that, in this place, we shall not afford them the least consideration. He wrote “hupo Pneumatos hagiou feromenos”, — as he was “moved by the Holy Ghost.” And as all the matter delivered by him was sacred truth, which immediately requires our faith and obedience, so the way and manner wherein he declared it was such as the Holy Ghost judged most expedient for the edification of the church. And as he said himself with confidence, that if the gospel which he preached, and as it was preached by him, though accounted by them foolishness, was hid, so as that they could not understand nor comprehend the mystery of it, it was “hid unto them that are lost;” so we may say, that if what he delivers in particular concerning our justification before God seems obscure, difficult, or perplexed unto us, it is from our prejudices, corrupt affections, or weakness of understanding at best, not able to comprehend the glory of this mystery of the grace of God in Christ, and not from any defect in his way and manner of the revelation of it. Rejecting, therefore, all such perverse insinuations, in a due sense of our own weakness, and acknowledgment that at best we know but in part, we shall humbly inquire into the blessed revelation of this great mystery of the justification of a sinner before God, as by him declared in those chapters of his glorious Epistle to the Romans; and I shall do it with all briefness possible, so as not, on this occasion, to repeat what has been already spoken, or to anticipate what may be spoken in place more convenient.
The first thing he does is to prove all men to be under sin, and to be guilty before God. This he gives as the conclusion of his preceding discourse, from chap. 1:18, or what he had evidently evinced thereby, chap. 3:19, 23.
Hereon an inquiry does arise, how any of them come to be justified before God? And whereas justification is a sentence upon the consideration of a righteousness, his grand inquiry is, what that righteousness is, on the consideration whereof a man may be so justified? And concerning this, he affirms expressly that it is not the righteousness of the law, nor of the works of it; whereby what he does intend has been in part before declared, and will be farther manifested in the process of our discourse. Wherefore, in general, he declares that the righteousness whereby we are justified is the righteousness of God, in opposition unto any righteousness of our own, chap. 1:17; 3:21, 22. And he describes this righteousness of God by three properties: —
1. That it is “choris nomou”, — “without the law,” verse 21; separated in all its concerns from the law; not attainable by it, nor any works of it, which they have no influence into. It is neither our obedience unto the law, nor attainable thereby. Nor can any expression more separate and exclude the works of obedience unto the law from any concernment in it than this does. Wherefore, whatever is, or can be, performed by ourselves in obedience unto the law, is rejected from any interest in this righteousness of God, or the procurement of it to be made ours.
The apostle, by this distinction of the books of the Old Testament into “the law and the prophets,” manifests that by the “law” he understands the books of Moses. And in them testimony is given unto this righteousness of God four ways: —
(1.) By a declaration of the causes of the necessity of it unto our justification. This is done in the account given of our apostasy from God, of the loss of his image, and the state of sin that ensued thereon; for hereby an end was put unto all possibility and hope of acceptance with God by our own personal righteousness. By the entrance of sin our own righteousness went out of the world; so that there must be another righteousness prepared and approved of God, and called “the righteousness of God,” in opposition unto our own, or all relation of love and favor between God and man must cease forever.
(2.) In the way of recovery from this state, generally declared in the first promise of the blessed seed, by whom this righteousness of God was to be wrought and introduced; for he alone was “to make an end of sin, and to bring in everlasting righteousness,” “tsedek ‘olamim”, Daniel 9:24; that righteousness of God that should be the means of the justification of the church in all ages, and under all dispensations.
(3.) By stopping up the way unto any other righteousness, through the threatening of the law, and that curse which every transgression of it was attended withal. Hereby it was plainly and fully declared that there must be such a righteousness provided for our justification before men as would answer and remove that curse.
(4.) In the prefiguration and representation of that only way and means whereby this righteousness of God was to be wrought.
This it did in all its sacrifices, especially in the great anniversary sacrifice on the day of expiation, wherein all the sins of the church were laid on the head of the sacrifice, and so carried away.
3. He describes it by the only way of our participation of it, the only means on our part of the communication of it unto us. And this is by faith alone: “The righteousness of God which is by the faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe; for there is no difference,” Romans 3:22. Faith in Christ Jesus is so the only way and means whereby this righteousness of God comes upon us, or is communicated unto us, that it is so unto all that have this faith, and only unto them; and that without difference on the consideration of any thing else besides. And although faith, taken absolutely, may be used in various senses, yet, as thus specified and limited, the faith of Christ Jesus, or, as he calls it, “the faith that is in me,” Acts 26:18, it can intend nothing but the reception of him, and trust in him, as the ordinance of God for righteousness and salvation.
This description of the righteousness of God revealed in the gospel, which the apostle asserts as the only means and cause of our justification before God, with the only way of its participation and communication unto us, by the faith of Christ Jesus, fully confirms the truth we plead for. For if the righteousness wherewith we must be justified before God be not our own, but the righteousness of God, as these things are directly opposed, Philippians 3:9; and the only way whereby it comes upon us, or we are made partakers of it, is by the faith of Jesus Christ; then our own personal, inherent righteousness or obedience has no interest in our justification before God: which argument is insoluble, nor is the force of it to be waived by any distinctions whatever, if we keep our hearts unto a due reverence of the authority of God in his word.
Having fully proved that no men living have any righteousness of their own whereby they may be justified, but are all shut up under the guilt of sin; and having declared that there is a righteousness of God now fully revealed in the gospel, whereby alone we may be so, leaving all men in themselves unto their own lot, inasmuch as “all have sinned and come short of the glory of God;” — he proceeds to declare the nature of our justification before God in all the causes of it, Romans 3:2-26, “Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: whom God has set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God, to declare, I say, at this time his righteousness; that he might be just, and the justifier of them that believe in Jesus”.
Here it is that we may and ought, if anywhere, to expect the interest of our personal obedience, under some qualification or other, in our justification to be declared. For if it should be supposed (which yet it cannot, with any pretense of reason) that, in the foregoing discourse, the apostle had excluded only the works of the law as absolutely perfect, or as wrought in our own strength without the aid of grace, or as meritorious; yet having generally excluded all works from our justification, verse 20, without distinction or limitation, it might well be expected, and ought to have been so, that, upon the full declaration which he gives us of the nature and way of our justification, in all the causes of it, he should have assigned the place and consideration which our own personal righteousness had in our justification before God, — the first, or second, or continuation of it, somewhat or other, — or at least made some mention of it, under the qualification of gracious, sincere, or evangelical, that it might not seem to be absolutely excluded. It is plain the apostle thought of no such thing, nor was at all solicitous about any reflection that might be made on his doctrine, as though it overthrew the necessity of our own obedience. Take in the consideration of the apostle’s design, with the circumstances of the context, and the argument from his utter silence about our own personal righteousness, in our justification before God, is unanswerable. But this is not all; we shall find, in our progress, that it is expressly and directly excluded by him.
All unprejudiced persons must needs think, that no words could be used more express and emphatical to secure the whole of our justification unto the free grace of God, through the blood or mediation of Christ, wherein it is faith alone that gives us an interest, than these used here by the apostle.
And, for my part, I shall only say, that I know not how to express myself in this matter in words and terms more express or significant of the conception of my mind. And if we could all but subscribe the answer here given by the apostle, how, by what means, on what grounds, or by what causes, we are justified before God, — namely, that “we are justified freely by his grace, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God has set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood,” etc., — there might be an end of this controversy.
But the principal passages of this testimony must be distinctly considered. First, the principal efficient cause is first expressed with a peculiar emphasis, or the “causa proegoumene”. “Dikaioumenoi doorean tei autou chariti”, — “Being justified freely by his grace.” God is the principal efficient cause of our justification, and his grace is the only moving cause thereof. I shall not stay upon the exception of those of the Roman church, — namely, that by “tei chariti autou” (which their translation renders “per gratiam Dei”), the internal, inherent grace of God, which they make the formal cause of justification, is intended; for they have nothing to prove it but that which overthrows it, namely, that it is added unto “doorean”, “freely;” which were needless, if it signify the free grace or favor of God: for both these expressions, “gratis per gratiam,” “freely by grace,” are put together to give the greater emphasis unto this assertion, wherein the whole of our justification is vindicated unto the free grace of God. So far as they are distinguishable, the one denotes the principle from whence our justification proceeds, — namely, grace; and the other, the manner of its operation, — it works freely. Besides, the grace of God in this subject does everywhere constantly signify his goodness, love, and favor; as has been undeniably proved by many. See Romans 5:15; Ephesians 2:4,8,9; 2 Timothy 1:9; Titus 3:4,5. “Being justified “doorean” (so the LXX render the Hebrew particle “chinam”), — “without price,” without merit, without cause; — and sometimes it is used for “without end;” that is, what is done in vain, as “doorean” is used by the apostle, Galatians 2:21; — without price or reward, Genesis 29:15; Exodus 21:2; 2 Samuel 24:24; — without cause, or merit, or any means of procurement, 1 Samuel 19:5; Psalm 69:4; in this sense it is rendered by “doorean”, John 15:25. The design of the word is to exclude all consideration of any thing in us that should be the cause or condition of our justification. “Charis”, “favor,” absolutely considered, may have respect unto somewhat in him towards whom it is showed. So it is said that Joseph found grace or favor, “charin”, in the eyes of Potiphar, Genesis 39:4: but he found it not “doorean”, without any consideration or cause; for he “saw that the LORD was with him, and made all that he did to prosper in his hand,” verse 3. But no words can be found out to free our justification before God from all respect unto any thing in ourselves, but only what is added expressly as the means of its participation on our part, through faith in his blood, more emphatical than these here used by the apostle: “Doorean tei autou chariti”, — “Freely by his grace.” And with whom this is not admitted, as exclusive of all works or obedience of our own, of all conditions, preparations, and merit, I shall despair of ever expressing my conceptions about it intelligibly unto them.
Having asserted this righteousness of God as the cause and means of our justification before him, in opposition unto all righteousness of our own, and declared the cause of the communication of it unto us on the part of God to be mere free, sovereign grace, the means on our part whereby, according unto the ordination of God, we do receive, or are really made partakers of, that righteousness of God whereon we are justified, is by faith: “Dia tes pisteoos en outou haimati”, — that is, “By faith alone,” Nothing else is proposed, nothing else required unto this end. It is replied, that there is no intimation that it is by faith alone, or that faith is asserted to be the means of our justification exclusively unto other graces or works.
But there is such an exclusion directly included in the description given of that faith whereby we are justified, with respect unto its especial object, — “By faith in his blood;” for faith respecting the blood of Christ as that whereby propitiation was made for sin, — in which respect alone the apostle affirms that we are justified through faith, — admits of no association with any other graces or duties. Neither is it any part of their nature to fix on the blood of Christ for justification before God; wherefore they are all here directly excluded. And those who think otherwise may try how they can introduce them into this contempt without an evident corrupting of it, and perverting of its sense. Neither will the other evasion yield our adversaries the least relief, — namely, that by faith, not the single grace of faith is intended, but the whole obedience required in the new covenant, faith and works together. For as all works whatever, as our works, are excluded in the declaration of the causes of our justification on the part of God (“doorean tei outou chariti”, — “Freely by his grace”), by virtue of that great rule, Romans 11:6, “If by grace, then no more of works; otherwise grace is no more grace;” so the determination of the object of faith in its act or duty, whereon we are justified, — namely, the blood of Christ, — is absolutely exclusive of all works from an interest in that duty; for whatever looks unto the blood of Christ for justification is faith, and nothing else. And as for the calling of it a single act or duty, I refer the reader unto our preceding discourse about the nature of justifying faith.
1. That boasting is excluded: “Pou oun he kauchesi? exekleisthe”, chap. 3:27. Apparent it is from hence, and from what he affirms concerning Abraham, chap. 4:2, that a great part, at least, of the controversy he had about justification, was, whether it did admit of any “kauchesis” or “kauchema” in those that were justified. And it is known that the Jews placed all their hopes in those things whereof they thought they could boast, — namely, their privileges and their righteousness. But from the declaration made of the nature and causes of justification, the apostle infers that all boasting whatever is utterly shut out of doors, — “exekleisthe”. Boasting, in our language is the name of a vice; and is never used in a good sense. But “kauchesis” and “kauchema”, the words used by the apostle, are “ek toon mesoon”, — of an indifferent signification; and, as they are applied, may denote a virtue as well as a vice: so they do, Hebrews 3:6.
But always, and in all places, they respect something that is peculiar in or unto them unto whom they are ascribed. Wherever any thing is ascribed unto one, and not unto another, with respect unto any good end, there is fundamentum “kaucheseoos”, — a “foundation for boasting.” All this, says the apostle, in the matter of our justification, is utterly excluded. But wherever respect is had unto any condition or qualification in one more than another, especially if it be of works, it gives a ground of boasting, as he affirms, Romans 4:2. And it appears, from comparing that verse with this, that wherever there is any influence of our own works into our justification, there is a ground of boasting; but in evangelical justification no such boasting in any kind can be admitted. Wherefore, there is no place for works in our justification before God; for if there were, it is impossible but that a “kauchema”, in one kind or other, before God or man, must be admitted.
2. He infers a general conclusion, “That a man is justified by faith, without the works of the law,” chap. 3:28. What is meant by “the law,” and what by “the works of the law,” in this discourse of the apostle about our justification, has been before declared. And if we are justified freely through faith in the blood of Christ, that faith which has the propitiation of Christ for its especial object, or as it has so, can take no other grace nor duty into partnership with itself therein; and being so justified as that all such boasting is excluded as necessarily results from any differencing graces or works in ourselves, wherein all the works of the law are excluded, it is certain that it is by faith alone in Christ that we are justified. All works are not only excluded, but the way unto their return is so shut up by the method of the apostle’s discourse, that all the reinforcements which the wit of man can give unto them will never introduce them into our justification before God.
3. He asserts from hence, that we “do not make void the law through grace,” but establish it, verse 31; which, how it is done, and how alone it can be done, has been before declared.
This is the substance of the resolution the apostle gives unto that great inquiry, how a guilty convinced sinner may come to be justified in the sight of God? — “The sovereign grace of God, the mediation of Christ, and faith in the blood of Christ, are all that he requires thereunto.” And whatever notions men may have about justification in other respects, it will not be safe to venture on any other resolution of this case and inquiry; nor are we wiser than the Holy Ghost.
4. In the beginning of the fourth chapter he confirms what he had before doctrinally declared, by a signal instance; and this was of the justification of Abraham, who being the father of the faithful, his justification is proposed as the pattern of ours, as he expressly declares, verses 22-24. And some fear things I shall observe on this instance in our passage unto the fifth verse, where I shall fix our discourse.
1. He denies that Abraham was justified by works, verse 2. And, —
(1.) These works were not those of the Jewish law, which alone some pretend to be excluded from our justification in this place; for they were the works he performed some hundreds of years before the giving of the law at Sinai: wherefore they are the works of his moral obedience unto God that are intended.
(2.) Those works must be understood which Abraham had then, when he is said to be justified in the testimony produced unto that purpose; but the works that Abraham then had were works of righteousness, performed in faith and love to God, works of new obedience under the conduct and aids of the Spirit of God, works required in the covenant of grace.
These are the works excluded from the justification of Abraham. And these things are plain, express, and evident, not to be eluded by any distinctions or evasions. All Abraham’s evangelical works are expressly excluded from his justification before God.
2. He proves by the testimony of Scripture, declaring the nature and grounds of the justification of Abraham, that he was justified now other way but that which he had before declared, — namely, by grace, through faith in Christ Jesus, verse 3. “Abraham believed God” (in the promise of Christ and his mediation), “and it was counted unto him for righteousness,” verse 3. He was justified by faith in the way before described (for other justification by faith there is none), in opposition unto all his own works and personal righteousness thereby.
3. From the same testimony he declares how he came to be partaker of that righteousness whereon he was justified before God; which was by imputation: it was counted or imputed unto him for righteousness. The nature of imputation has been before declared.
4. The especial nature of this imputation, — namely, that it is of grace, without respect unto works, — he asserts and proves, verse 4, from what is contrary thereunto: “Now to him that worketh is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt.” Where works are of any consideration, there is no room for that kind of imputation whereby Abraham was justified: for it was a gracious imputation, and that is not of what is our own antecedently thereunto, but what is made our own by that imputation; for what is our own cannot be imputed unto us in a way of grace, but only reckoned ours in a way of debt. That which is our own, with all the effects of it, is due unto us; and, therefore, they who plead that faith itself is imputed unto us, to give some countenance unto an imputation of grace, do say it is imputed not for what it is, for then it would be reckoned of debt, but for what it is not. So Socinus, “Cum fides imputatur nobis pro justitia ideo imputatur, quia nec ipsa fides justitia est, nec vere in se eam continet”, De Servat., part 4. cap.
2. Which kind of imputation, being indeed only a false imagination, we have before disproved. But all works are inconsistent with that imputation whereby Abraham was justified. It is otherwise with him that works, so as thereon to be justified, than it was with him. Yea, say some, “All works that are meritorious, that are performed with an opinion of merit, that make the reward to be of debt, are excluded; but other works are not.” This distinction is not learned from the apostle; for, according unto him, if this be merit and meritorious, that the reward be reckoned of debt, then all works in justification are so. For, without distinction or limitation, he affirms that “unto him that worketh, the reward is not reckoned of grace, but of debt.” He does not exclude some sort of works, or works in some sense, because they would make the reward of debt, but affirms that all would do so, unto the exclusion of gracious imputation; for if the foundation of imputation be in ourselves, imputation by grace is excluded.
In the fifth verse, the sum of the apostle’s doctrine, which he had contended for, and what he had proved, is expressed: “But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness.” It is granted on all hands, that the close of the verse, “His faith is counted for righteousness,” does express the justification of the person intended. He is justified; and the way of it is, his faith is counted or imputed. Wherefore, the foregoing words declare the subject of justification and its qualification, or the description of the person to be justified, with all that is required on his part thereunto.
And, first, it is said of him that he is “ho me ergadzomenos”, — “who worketh not.” It is not required unto his justification that he should not work, that he should not perform any duties of obedience unto God in any kind, which is working; for every person in the world is always obliged unto all duties of obedience, according to the light and knowledge of the will of God, the means whereof is afforded unto him: but the expression is to be limited by the subject-matter treated of; — he “who worketh not,” with respect unto justification; though not the design of the person, but the nature of the thing is intended. To say, he who worketh not is justified through believing, is to say that his works, whatever they be, have no influence into his justification, nor has God in justifying of him any respect unto them: wherefore, he alone who worketh not is the subject of justification, the person to be justified; that is, God considers no man’s works, no man’s duties of obedience, in his justification, seeing we are justified “doorean tei outou chariti”, — “freely by his grace.” And when God affirms expressly that he justifies him who works not, and that freely by his grace, I cannot understand what place our works or duties of obedience can have in our justification; for why should we trouble ourselves to invent of what consideration they may be in our justification before God, when he himself affirms that they are of none at all? Neither are the words capable of any evading interpretation. He that worketh not is he that worketh not, let men say what they please, and distinguish as long as they will: and it is a boldness not to be justified, for any to rise up in opposition unto such express divine testimonies, however they may be harnessed with philosophical notions and arguing; which are but as thorns and briers, which the word of God will pass through and consume.
But the apostle farther adds, in the description of the subject of justification, that God “justifieth the ungodly.” This is that expression which has stirred up so much wrath amongst many, and on the account whereof some seem to be much displeased with the apostle himself. If any other person dare but say that God justifies the ungodly, he is personally reflected on as one that by his doctrine would overthrow the necessity of godliness, holiness, obedience, or good works; “for what need can there be of any of them, if God justifies the ungodly?” Howbeit this is a periphrasis of God, that he is “ho dikaioon ton asethe”, — “he that justifieth the ungodly.” This is his prerogative and property; as such will he be believed in and worshipped, which adds weight and emphasis unto the expression; and we must not forego this testimony of the Holy Ghost, let men be as angry as they please. “But the difference is about the meaning of the words.” If so, it may be allowed without mutual offense, though we should mistake their proper sense. Only, it must be granted that God “justifieth the ungodly.” “That is,” say some, “those who formerly were ungodly, not those who continue ungodly when they are justified.” And this is most true. All that are justified were before ungodly; and all that are justified are at the same instant made godly. But the question is, whether they are godly or ungodly antecedently in any moment of time unto their justification? If they are considered as godly, and are so indeed, then the apostle’s words are not true, that God justifieth the ungodly; for the contradictory proposition is true, God justifieth none but the godly. For these propositions, God justifieth the ungodly, and God justifieth none but the godly, are contradictory; for here are expressly “katafasis” and “apofasis antikeimenai”, which is “antifasis”.
Wherefore, although in and with the justification of a sinner, he is made godly, — for he is endowed with that faith which purifies the heart and is a vital principle of all obedience, and the conscience is purged from dead works by the blood of Christ, — yet antecedently unto this justification he is ungodly and considered as ungodly, as one that works not, as one whose duties and obedience contribute nothing unto his justification. As he works not, all works are excluded from being the “causa per quam;” and as he is ungodly, from being the “causa sine qua non” of his justification.
The qualification of the subject, or the means on the part of the person to be justified, and whereby he becomes actually so to be, is faith, or believing: “But believeth on him who justifieth the ungodly;” that is, it is faith alone. For it is the faith of him who worketh not; and not only so, but its especial object, God as justifying the ungodly, is exclusive of the concomitance of any works whatever.
This is faith alone, or it is impossible to express faith alone, without the literal use of that word alone. But faith being asserted in opposition unto all works of ours, “unto him that worketh not;” and its especial nature declared in its especial object, God as “justifying the ungodly, ”that is, freely by his grace, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus; — no place is left for any works to make the least approach towards our justification before God, under the covert of any distinction whatever.
And the nature of justifying faith is here also determined. It is not a mere assent unto divine revelations; it is not such a firm assent unto them as should cause us to yield obedience unto all the precepts of the Scripture, — though these things are included in it; but it is a believing on and trusting unto him that justified the ungodly, through the mediation of Christ.
Concerning this person, the apostle affirms that “his faith is counted for righteousness;” that is, he is justified in the way and manner before declared. But there is a difference about the sense of these words. Some say the meaning of them is, that faith, as an act, a grace, a duty, or work of ours, is so imputed. Others say that it is faith as it apprehends Christ and his righteousness, which is properly imputed unto us, that is intended. So faith, they say, justifieth, or is counted for righteousness relatively, not properly, with respect unto its object; and so acknowledge a trope in the words. And this is fiercely opposed, as though they denied the express words of the Scripture, when yet they do but interpret this expression, once only used, by many others, wherein the same thing is declared. But those who are for the first sense, do all affirm that faith here is to be taken as including obedience or works, either as the form and essence of it, or as such necessary concomitants as have the same influence with it into our justification, or are in the same manner the condition of it. But as herein they admit also of a trope in the words, which they so fiercely blame in others, so they give this sense of the whole: “Unto him that worketh not, but believeth in him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith and works are counted to him for righteousness;” which is not only to deny what the apostle affirms, but to assign unto him a plain contradiction.
And I do a little marvel that any unprejudiced person should expound this solitary expression in such a sense as is contradictory unto the design of the apostle, the words of the same period, and the whole ensuing context.
For that which the apostle proposes unto confirmation, which contains his whole design, is, that we are justified by the righteousness which is of God by faith in the blood of Christ. That this cannot be faith itself shall immediately be made eviDeuteronomy And in the words of the text all works are excluded, if any words be sufficient to exclude them; but faith absolutely, as a single grace, act, and duty of ours, much more as it includes obedience in it, is a work, — and in the latter sense, it is all works. And in the ensuing context he proves that Abraham was not justified by works. But not to be justified by works, and to be justified by some works, — as faith itself is a work, and if, as such, it be imputed unto us for righteousness, we are justified by it as such, — are contradictory.
Wherefore, I shall oppose some few arguments unto this feigned sense of the apostle’s words: —
1. To believe absolutely, — as faith is an act and duty of ours, — and works are not opposed, for faith is a work, an especial kind of working; but faith, as we are justified by it, and works, or to work, are opposed: “To him that worketh not, but believeth.” So Galatians 2:16; Ephesians 2:8,9.
2. It is the righteousness of God that is imputed unto us; for we are “made the righteousness of God in Christ,” 2 Corinthians 5:21; “The righteousness of God upon them that believe,” Romans 3:21,22; but faith, absolutely considered, is not the righteousness of God. “God imputeth unto us righteousness without works,” chap. 4:6; but there is no intimation of a double imputation, of two sorts of righteousnesses, — of the righteousness of God, and that which is not so. Now faith, absolutely considered, is not the righteousness of God; for, —
(1.) That whereunto the righteousness of God is revealed, whereby we believe and receive it, is not itself the righteousness of God; for nothing can be the cause or means of itself; — but the righteousness of God is “revealed unto faith,” chap. 1:17; and by it is it “received,” chap. 3:22; 5:11.
(4.) The righteousness which is imputed unto us is not our own antecedently unto that imputation: “That I may be found in him, not having mine own righteousness,” Philippians 3:9; but faith is a man’s own: “Show me thy faith, and I will show thee my faith,” James 2:18.
(5.) “God imputeth righteousness” unto us, Romans 4:6; and that righteousness which God imputes unto us is the righteousness whereby we are justified, for it is imputed unto us that we may be justified; — but we are justified by the obedience and blood of Christ: “By the obedience of one we are made righteous,” chap. 5:19; “Much more now being justified by his blood,” verse 9; “He has put away sin by the sacrifice of himself,” Hebrews 9:26; Isaiah 53:11, “By his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many; for he shall bear their iniquities.” But faith is neither the obedience nor the blood of Christ.
(6.) Faith, as we said before, is our own; and that which is our own may be imputed unto us. But the discourse of the apostle is about that which is not our own antecedently unto imputation, but is made ours thereby, as we have proved; for it is of grace. And the imputation unto us of what is really our own antecedently unto that imputation, is not of grace, in the sense of the apostle; for what is so imputed is imputed for what it is, and nothing else. For that imputation is but the judgment of God concerning the thing imputed, with respect unto them whose it is. So the act of Pinehas was imputed unto him for righteousness. God judged it, and declared it to be a righteous, rewardable act. Wherefore, if our faith and obedience be imputed unto us, that imputation is only the judgment of God that we are believers, and obedient. “The righteousness of the righteous,” saith the prophet, “shall be upon him, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon him,” Ezekiel 18:20. As the wickedness of the wicked is upon him, or is imputed unto him; so the righteousness of the righteous is upon him, or is imputed unto him. And the wickedness of the wicked is on him, when God judges him wicked as his works are; so is the righteousness of a man upon him, or imputed unto him, when God judgeth of his righteousness as it is.
Wherefore, if faith, absolutely considered, be imputed unto us as it contains in itself, or as it is accompanied with, works of obedience; then it is imputed unto us, either for a perfect righteousness, which it is not, or for an imperfect righteousness, which it is; or the imputation of it is the accounting of that to be a perfect righteousness which is but imperfect.
But none of these can be affirmed: —
(1.) It is not imputed unto us for a perfect righteousness, the righteousness required by the law; for so it is not. Episcopius confesses in his disputation, dispute. 45, sect.7, 8, that the righteousness which is imputed unto us must be “absolutissima et perfectissima,” — “most absolute and most perfect.” And thence he thus defines the imputation of righteousness unto us, — namely, that it is, “gratiosa divinae mentis aestimatio, qua credentem in Filium suum, eo loco reputat ac si perfecte justus esset, ac legi et voluntati ejus per omnia semper paruisset”. And no man will pretend that faith is such a most absolute and most perfect righteousness, as that by it the righteousness of the law should be fulfilled in us, as it is by that righteousness which is imputed unto us.
(2.) It is not imputed unto us for what it is, — an imperfect righteousness; for, First, This would be of no advantage unto us; for we cannot be justified before God by an imperfect righteousness, as is evident in the prayer of the psalmist, Psalm 143:2, “Enter not into judgment with thy servant, for in thy sight no man living” (no servant of thine who has the most perfect or highest measure of imperfect righteousness) “shall be justified.”
Secondly, The imputation of any thing unto us that was ours antecedently unto that imputation, for what it is, and no more, is contrary unto the imputation described by the apostle; as has been proved.
(3.) This imputation pleaded for cannot be a judging of that to be a perfect righteousness which is imperfect; for the judgment of God is according to truth. But without judging it to be such, it cannot be accepted as such. To accept of any thing, but only for what we judge it to be, is to be deceived.
Lastly, If faith, as a work, be imputed unto us, then it must be as a work wrought in faith; for no other work is accepted with God. Then must that faith also wherein it is wrought be imputed unto us; for that also is faith and a good work. That, therefore, must have another faith from whence it must proceed; and so “in infinitum.”
Many other things there are in the ensuing explication of the justification of Abraham, the nature of his faith and his righteousness before God, with the application of them unto all that do believe, which may be justly pleaded unto the same purpose with those passages of the context which we have insisted on; but if every testimony should be pleaded which the Holy Ghost has given unto this truth, there would be no end of writing.
One thing more I shall observe, and put an end unto our discourse on this chapter.
Romans 4:6-8. The apostle pursues his argument to prove the freedom of our justification by faith, without respect unto works, through the imputation of righteousness, in the instance of pardon of sin, which essentially belongs thereunto. And this he does by the testimony of the psalmist, who places the blessedness of a man in the remission of sins. His design is not thereby to declare the full nature of justification, which he had done before, but only to prove the freedom of it from any respect unto works in the instance of that essential part of it. “Even as David also describeth the blessedness of the man unto whom God imputeth righteousness without works,” (which was the only thing he designed to prove by this testimony), “saying, Blessed are they whose iniquities are forgiven.” He describes their blessedness by it; — not that their whole blessedness does consist therein, but this concurs unto it, wherein no respect can possibly be had unto any works whatever. And he may justly from hence describe the blessedness of a man, in that the imputation of righteousness and the non-imputation of sin (both which the apostle mentions distinctly), wherein his whole blessedness as unto justification does consist, are inseparable. And because remission of sin is the first part of justification, and the principal part of it, and has the imputation of righteousness always accompanying it, the blessedness of a man may be well described thereby; yea, whereas all spiritual blessings go together in Christ, Ephesians 1:3, a man’s blessedness may be described by any of them. But yet the imputation of righteousness and the remission of sin are not the same, no more than righteousness imputed and sin remitted are the same. Nor does the apostle propose them as the same, but mentions them distinctly, both being equally necessary unto our complete justification, as has been proved.
Romans 5:12-21. “Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned: (for until the law sin was in the world: but sin is not imputed when there is no law. Nevertheless death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over them that had not sinned after the similitude of Adam’s transgression, who is the figure of him that was to come. But not as the offense, so also is the free gift. For if through the offense of one many be dead; much more the grace of God, and the gift by grace, which is by one man, Jesus Christ, has abounded unto many. And not as it was by one that sinned, so is the gift: for the judgment was by one to condemnation, but the free gift is of many offenses unto justification. For if by one man’s offense death reigned by one; much more they which receive abundance of grace, and of the gift of righteousness, shall reign in life by one, Jesus Christ:) Therefore, as by the offense of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation; even so by the righteousness of one the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life. For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners; so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous. Moreover, the law entered, that the offense might abound: but where sin abounded, grace did much more abound: that as sin has reigned unto death, even so might grace reign through righteousness unto eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord.”
The apostle, chap. 3:27, affirms that in this matter of justification all “kauchesis”, or “boasting,” is excluded; but here, in the verse foregoing, he grants a boasting or a “kauchema”. “Ou monon de, alle kai kauchoomenoi en tooi Theooi”; — “And not only so, but we also glory in God.” He excludes boasting in ourselves, because there is nothing in us to procure or promote our own justification. He allows it us in God, because of the eminency and excellency of the way and means of our justification which in his grace he has provided. And the “kauchema”, or “boasting” in God, here allowed us, has a peculiar respect unto what the apostle had in prospect farther to discourse of. “Ou monon de”, — “And not only so,” includes what he had principally treated of before concerning our justification, so far as it consists in the pardon of sin; for although he does suppose, yea, and mention, the imputation of righteousness also unto us, yet principally he declares our justification by the pardon of sin and our freedom from condemnation, whereby all boasting in ourselves is excluded.
Great complaints have been made by some concerning the obscurity of the discourse of the apostle in this place, by reason of sundry ellipses, antapodota, hyperbata, and other figures of speech, which either are or are feigned to be therein. Howbeit, I cannot but think, that if men acquainted with the common principles of Christian religion, and sensible in themselves of the nature and guilt of our original apostasy from God, would without prejudice read “tauten ten periochen tes Grafes”, — “this place of the Scripture,” they will grant that the design of the apostle is to prove, that as the sin of Adam was imputed unto all men unto condemnation, so the righteousness or obedience of Christ is imputed unto all that believe unto the justification of life. The sum of it is given by Theodore, Dial. 3 “Vide, quomodo quae Christi sunt cum iis quae sunt Adami conferantur, cum morbo medicina, cum vulnere emplastrum, cum peccato justitia, cum execratione benedictio, cum condemnatione remissio, cum transgressione obedientie, cum morte vita, cum inferis regnum, Christus cum Adam, homo cum homine”.
The differences that are among interpreters about the exposition of these words relate unto the use of some particles, prepositions, and the dependence of one passage upon another; on none of which the confirmation of the truth pleaded for does depend. But the plain design of the apostle, and his express propositions, are such as, if men could but acquiesce in them, might put an end unto this controversy.
Socinus acknowledges that this place of Scripture does give, as he speaks, the greatest occasion unto our opinion in this matter; for he cannot deny but at least a great appearance of what we believe is represented in the words of the apostle. He does, therefore, use his utmost endeavor to wrest and deprave them; and yet, although most of his artifices are since traduced into the annotations of others upon the place, he himself produces nothing material but what is taken out of Origen, and the comment of Pelagius on this epistle, which is extant in the works of Jerome, and was urged before him by Erasmus. The substance or what he pleads for is, that the actual transgression of Adam is not imputed unto his posterity, nor a depraved nature from thence communicated unto them; only, whereas he had incurred the penalty of death, all that derive their nature from him in that condition are rendered subject unto death also.
And as for that corruption of nature which is in us, or a proneness unto sin, it is not derived from Adam, but is a habit contracted by many continued acts of our own. So also, on the other hand, that the obedience or righteousness of Christ is not imputed unto us; only when we make ourselves to become his children by our obedience unto him, — he having obtained eternal life for himself by his obedience unto God, — we are made partakers of the benefits thereof. This is the substance of his long disputation on this subject, De Servatore, lib. 4 cap.
6. But this is not to expound the words of the apostle, but expressly to contradict them, as we shall see in the ensuing consideration of them.
A comparison is here proposed and pursued between the first Adam, by whom sin was brought into the world, and the second Adam, by whom it is taken away. And a comparison it is “ek tou enantiou”, — of things contrary; wherein there is a similitude in some things, and a dissimilitude in others, both sorts illustrating the truth declared in it. The general proposition of it is contained in verse 12: “As by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed on all men, for that all have sinned.” The entrance of sin and punishment into the world was by one man; and that by one sin, as he afterwards declares: yet were they not confined unto the person of that one man, but belonged equally unto all.
This the apostle expresses, inverting the order of the effect and cause. In the entrance of it he first mentions the cause or sin, and then the effect or punishment: “By one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin;” but in the application of it unto all men, he expresses first the effect and then the cause: “Death passed on all men, for that all have sinned.” Death, on the first entrance of sin, passed on all, — that is, all men became liable and obnoxious unto it, as the punishment due to sin. All men that ever were, are, or shall be, were not then existent in their own persons; but yet were they all of them then, upon the first entrance of sin, made subject to death, or liable unto punishment. They were so by virtue of divine constitution, upon their federal existence in the one man that sinned. And actually they became obnoxious in their own persons unto the sentence of it upon their first natural existence, being born children of wrath.
It is hence manifest what sin it is that the apostle intends, — namely, the actual sin of Adam, — the one sin of that one common person, whilst he was so. For although the corruption and depravation of our nature does necessarily ensue thereon, in every one that is brought forth actually to the world by natural generation; yet is it the guilt of Adam’s actual sin alone that rendered them all obnoxious unto death upon the first entrance of sin into the world. So death entered by sin, — the guilt of it, obnoxiousness unto it; and that with respect unto all men universally.
Death here comprises the whole punishment due unto sin, be it what it will, concerning which we need not here to dispute: “The wages of sin is death,” Romans 6:23, and nothing else. Whatever sin deserves in the justice of God, whatever punishment God at any time appointed or threatened unto it, it is comprised in death: “In the day thou eatest thereof, thou shalt die the death.” This, therefore, the apostle lays down as the foundation of his discourse, and of the comparison which he intends, — namely, that in and by the actual sin of Adam, all men are made liable unto death, or unto the whole punishment due unto sin; that is, the guilt of that sin is imputed unto them. For nothing is intended by the imputation of sin unto any, but the rendering them justly obnoxious unto the punishment due unto that sin; as the not imputing of sin is the freeing of men from being subject or liable unto punishment. And this sufficiently evidences the vanity of the Pelagian gloss, that death passed upon all merely by virtue of natural propagation from him who had deserved it, without any imputation of the guilt of sin unto them; which is a contradiction unto the plain words of the apostle. For it is the guilt of sin, and not natural propagation, that he affirms to be the cause of death.
Having mentioned sin and death, the one as the only cause of the other, the guilt of sin of the punishment of death, — sin deserving nothing but death, and death being due unto nothing but sin, — he declares how all men universally became liable unto this punishment, or guilty of death: “Eph’hooi pantes hemarton”, — “In quo ones peccaverunt,” — “In whom all have sinned.” For it relates unto the one man that sinned, in whom all sinned: which is evident from the effect thereof, inasmuch as “in him all died,” 1 Corinthians 15:22; or, as it is here, on his sin “death passed on all men.” And this is the evident sense of the words, “epi” being put for “en” which is not unusual in the Scripture. See Matthew 15:5; Romans 4:18; 5:2; Philippians 1:3; Hebrews 9:17. And it is often so used by the best writers in the Greek tongue. So Hesiod, “Metron d’epi pasin ariston”, — “Modus in omnibus rebus optimus.” So, “Eph’ humin estin”, — “In vobis situm est”; “Touto eph’ emoi keitai”, — “Hoc in me situm est.” And this reading of the words is contended for by Austin against the Pelagians, rejecting their “eo quad” or “propterea.” But I shall not contend about the reading of the words. It is the artifice of our adversaries to persuade men, that the force of our argument to prove from hence the imputation of the sin of Adam unto his posterity, does depend solely upon this interpretation of these words, “eph’ hooi”, by “in whom.” We shall, therefore, grant them their desire, that they are better rendered by “eo quod,” “propterea,” or “quatenus,” — “inasmuch,” “because.” Only, we must say that here is a reason given why “death passed on all men,” inasmuch as “all have sinned,” that is, in that sin whereby death entered into the world.
It is true, death, by virtue of the original constitution of the law, is due unto every sin, whenever it is committed. But the present inquiry is, how death passed at once on all men? How they came (to be) liable and obnoxious unto it upon its first entrance by the actual sin of Adam, — which cannot be by their own actual sin; yea, the apostle, in the next verses, affirms that death passed on them also who never sinned actually, or as Adam did, whose sin was actual. And if the actual sins of men, in imitation of Adam’s sin, were intended, then should men be made liable to death before they had sinned; for death, upon its first entrance into the world, passed on all men, before any one man had actually sinned but Adam only. But that men should be liable unto death, which is nothing but the punishment of sin, when they have not sinned, is an open contradiction. For although God, by his sovereign power, might indict death on an innocent creature, yet that an innocent creature should be guilty of death is impossible: for to be guilty of death, is to have sinned.
Wherefore this expression, “Inasmuch as all have sinned,” expressing the desert and guilt of death then when sin and death first entered into the world, no sin can be intended in it but the sin of Adam, and our interest therein: “Eramus enim omnes ille unus homo”; and this can be no otherwise but by the imputation of the guilt of that sin unto us, For the act of Adam not being ours inherently and subjectively, we cannot be concerned in its effect but by the imputation of its guilt; for the communication of that unto us which is not inherent in us, is that which we intend by imputation.
This is the “protasis” of the intended collation; which I have insisted the longer on, because the apostle lays in it the foundation of all that he afterwards infers and asserts in the whole comparison. And here, some say, there is an “anantapodaton” in his discourse; that is, he lays down the proposition on the part of Adam, but does not show what answers to it on the contrary in Christ. And Origin gives the reason of the silence of the apostle herein, — namely, lest what is to be said therein should be abused by any unto sloth and negligence. For whereas he says “hoosper”, “as” (which is a note of similitude) “by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin;” so the “apodosis”, or reddition, should be, “so by one righteousness entered into the world, and life by righteousness.”
This he acknowledges to be the genuine filling up of the comparison, but was not expressed by the apostle, lest men should abuse it unto negligence or security, supposing that to be done already which should be done afterwards. But as this plainly contradicts and everts most of what he farther asserts in the exposition of the place, so the apostle concealed not any truth upon such considerations. And as he plainly expresses that which is here intimated, verse 19, so he shows how foolish and wicked any such imaginations are, as suppose that any countenance is given hereby unto any to indulge themselves in their sins.
Some grant, therefore, that the apostle does conceal the expression of what is ascribed unto Christ, in opposition unto what he had affirmed of Adam and his sin, unto verse 19; but the truth is, it is sufficiently included in the close of verse 19, where he affirms of Adam that, in those things whereof he treats, he was “the figure of him that was to come.” For the way and manner whereby he introduced righteousness and life, and communicated them unto men, answered the way and manner whereby Adam introduced sin and death, which passed on all the world. Adam being the figure of Christ, look how it was with him, with respect unto his natural posterity, as unto sin and death; so it is with the Lord Christ, the second Adam, and his spiritual posterity, with respect unto righteousness and life. Hence we argue, — If the actual sin of Adam was so imputed unto all his posterity as to be accounted their own sin unto condemnation, then is the actual obedience of Christ, the second Adam, imputed unto all his spiritual seed (that is, unto all believers) unto justification. I shall not here farther press this argument, because the ground of it will occur unto us afterwards.
The two next verses, containing an objection and an answer returned unto it, wherein we have no immediate concernment, I shall pass by.
Verses 15, 16. The apostle proceeds to explain his comparison in those things wherein there is a dissimilitude between the comparates: — “But not as the offense, so also is the free gift. For if through the offense of one many be dead; much more the grace of God, and the gift by grace, by one man, Jesus Christ, has abounded unto many.”
The opposition is between “paraptooma” on the one hand, and “charisma” on the other, — between which a dissimilitude is asserted, not as unto their opposite effects of death and life, but only as unto the degrees of their efficacy, with respect unto those effects. “Paraptooma”, the offense, the fall, the sin, the transgression, — that is, “tou henos parako-e”, “the disobedience of one,” verse 19. Hence the first sin of Adam is generally called “the fall,” — “to paraptooma”. That which is opposed hereunto is “to charisma” — “Donum, donum gratuitum; beneficium, id quod Deus gratificatur”; that is, “Charis tou Theou, kai doorea en chariti tei tou henos anthroopou Iesou Christou”, as it is immediately explained, “The grace of God, and the free gift by grace, through Jesus Christ.” Wherefore, although this word, in the next verse, does precisely signify the righteousness of Christ, yet here it comprehends all the causes of our justification, in opposition unto the fall of Adam, and the entrance of sin thereby.
The consequent and effect “tou paraptoomatos”, — “of the offense,” the fall, — is, that “many be dead.” No more is here intended by “many,” but only that the effects of that one offense were not confined unto one; and if we inquire who or how many those many are, the apostle tells us that they are all men universally; that is, all the posterity of Adam. By this one offense, because they all sinned, therein they are all dead; that is, rendered obnoxious and liable unto death, as the punishment due unto that one offense. And hence also it appears how vain it is to wrest those words of verse 12, “Inasmuch as all have sinned,” unto any other sin but the first sin in Adam, seeing it is given as the reason why death passed on them; it being here plainly affirmed “that they are dead,” or that death passed on them by that one offense.
The efficacy “tou charismatos”, — “of the free gift,” opposed hereunto, is expressed, as that which abounded much more. Besides the thing itself asserted, which is plain and evident, the apostle seems to me to argue the equity of our justification by grace, through the obedience of Christ, by comparing it with the condemnation that befell us by the sin and disobedience of Adam. For if it were just, meet, and equal, that all men should be made subject unto condemnation for the sin of Adam; it is much more so, that those who believe should be justified by the obedience of Christ, through the grace and free donation of God. But wherein, in particular, the gift by grace abounded unto many, above the efficacy of the fall to condemn, he declares afterwards. And that whereby we are freed from condemnation, more eminently than we are made obnoxious unto it by the fall and sin of Adam, by that alone we are justified before God. But this is by the grace of God, and the gift by grace, through Jesus Christ alone; which we plead for, verse 16. Another difference between the comparates is expressed, or rather the instance is given in particular of the dissimilitude asserted in general before: — “And not as it was by one that sinned, so is the gift: for the judgment was by one to condemnation, but the free gift is of many offenses unto justification.” “Di’ henos hamartesantos”, “By one that sinned,” is the same with “di’ henos paraptoomatos”, “by one sin,” one offense, the one sin of that man. “Krima”, we render “judgment.” Most interpreters do it by “reatus,” “guilt,” or “crimen,” which is derived from it. So “mishpat”, “judicium,” is used in the Hebrew for guilt: “mishpat-mawet la’ish hazeh”, Jeremiah 26:11, “The judgment of death is to this man, this man is guilty of death, has deserved to die.” First, therefore, there was “paraptooma”, the sin, the fall, “tou henos hamartesantos”, of one man that sinned; it was his actual sin alone. Thence followed “krima”, “reatus,” “guilt;” this was common unto all. In and by that one sin, guilt came upon all. And the end hereof, that which it rendered men obnoxious unto, is “katakrima”, — “condemnation,” guilt unto condemnation. And this guilt unto condemnation which came upon all, was “ex henos”, — of one person, or sin.
This is the order of things on the part of Adam: —
(1.) “Paraptooma”, the one sin; (2.) “Krima”, the guilt that thereon ensued unto all; (3.) “Katachrima”, the condemnation which that guilt deserved.
And their “antitheta,” or opposites, in the second Adam are: —
(1.) “Charisma”, the free donation of God; (2.) “Doorema”, the gift of grace itself, or the righteousness of Christ; (3.) “Dikaiooma”, or “dikaioosis dzooes”, “justification of life.” But yet though the apostle does thus distinguish these things, to illustrate his comparison and opposition, that which he intends by them all is the righteousness and obedience of Christ, as he declares, verses 18, 19.
This, in the matter of our justification, he calls, —
(1.) “Charisma”, with respect unto the free, gratuitous grant of it by the grace of God, “Doorea tes charitos”, and (2.) “Doorema”, with respect unto us who receive it, — a free gift it is unto us; and (3.) “Dikaiooma”, with respect unto its effect of making us righteous.
Whereas, therefore, by the sin of Adam imputed unto them, guilt came on all men unto condemnation, we must inquire wherein the free gift was otherwise: “Not as by one that sinned, so was the gift” And it was so in two things: for, —
1. Condemnation came upon all by one offense; but being under the guilt of that one offense, we contract the guilt of many more innumerable. Wherefore, if the free gift had respect only unto that one offense, and intended itself no farther, we could not be delivered; wherefore it is said to be “of many offenses,” that is, of all our sins and trespasses whatever.
2. Adam, and all his posterity in him, were in a state of acceptation with God, and placed in a way of obtaining eternal life and blessedness, wherein God himself would have been their reward. In this estate, by the entrance of sin, they lost the favor of God, and incurred the guilt of death or condemnation, for they are the same.
But they lost not an immediate right and title unto life and blessedness; for this they had not, nor could have before the course of obedience prescribed unto them was accomplished. That, therefore, which came upon all by the one offense, was the loss of God’s favor in the approbation of their present state, and the judgment or guilt of death and condemnation. But an immediate right unto eternal life, by that one sin was not lost. The free gift is not so: for as by it we are freed, not only from one sin, but from all our sins, so also by it we have a right and title unto eternal life; for therein, “grace reigns through righteousness unto eternal life,” verse 21.
The same truth is farther explained and confirmed, verse 17, “For if by one man’s offense death reigned by one; much more they which receive abundance of grace, and of the gift of righteousness, shall reign in life by one, Jesus Christ.” The design of the apostle having been sufficiently manifested in our observations on the former verses, I shall from this only observe those things which more immediately concern our present subject.
1. It is worth observation with what variety of expressions the apostle sets forth the grace of God in the justification of believers: “Dikaiooma, doorema, charis, charisma, perisseia charitos, doorea tes dikaiosunes”.
Nothing is omitted that may any way express the freedom, sufficiency, and efficacy of grace unto that end. And although these terms seem some of them to be coincident in their signification, and to be used by him promiscuously, yet do they every one include something that is peculiar, and all of them set forth the whole work of grace. “Dikaiooma” seems to me to be used in this argument for “dikaiologema”, which is the foundation of a cause in trial, the matter pleaded, whereon the person tried is to be acquitted and justified; and this is the righteousness of Christ, “of one.” “Doorema”, or a free donation, is exclusive of all desert and conditions on our part who do receive it; and it is that whereby we are freed from condemnation, and have a right unto the justification of life. “Charis” is the free grace and favor of God, which is the original or efficient cause of our justification, as was declared, chap. 3:24. “Charisma” has been explained before. “Perisseia charitos”, — “The abundance of grace,” — is added to secure believers of the certainty of the effect. It is that whereunto nothing is wanting unto our justification. “Doorea tes dikaiosunes” expresses the free grant of that righteousness which is imputed unto us unto the justification of life, afterward called “the obedience of Christ.” Be men as wise and learned as they please, it becomes us all to learn to think and speak of these divine mysteries from this blessed apostle, who knew them better than we all, and, besides, wrote by divine inspiration.
And it is marvelous unto me how men can break through the face that he has made about the grace of God and obedience of Christ, in the work of our justification before God, to introduce their own works of obedience, and to find a place for them therein. But the design of Paul and some men, in declaring this point of our justification before God, seems to be very opposite and contrary. His whole discourse is concerning the grace of God, the death, blood, and obedience of Christ, as if he could never sufficiently satisfy himself in the setting out and declaration of them, without the least mention of any works or duties of our own, or the least intimation of any use that they are of herein. But all their pleas are for their own works and duties; and they have invented as many terms to set them out by as the Holy Ghost has used for the expression and declaration of the grace of God. Instead of the words of wisdom before mentioned, which the Holy Ghost has taught, wherewith he fills up his discourse, theirs are filled with conditions, preparatory dispositions, merits, causes, and I know not what trappings for our own works. For my part I shall choose rather to learn of him, and accommodate my conceptions and expressions of gospel mysteries, and of this in especial concerning our justification, unto his who cannot deceive me, than trust to any other conduct, how specious soever its pretenses may be.
2. It is plain in this verse that no more is required of any one unto justification, but that he receive the “abundance of grace and the gift of righteousness;” for this is the description that the apostle gives of those that are justified, as unto any thing that on their part is required. And as this excludes all works of righteousness which we do, — for by none of them do we receive the abundance of grace, and the gift of righteousness, — so it does also the imputation of faith itself unto our justification, as it is an act and duty of our own: for faith is that whereby we receive the gift of righteousness by which we are justified. For it will not be denied but that we are justified by the gift of righteousness, or the righteousness which is given unto us; for by it have we right and title unto life. But our faith is not this gift; for that which receives, and that which is received, are not the same.
3. Where there is “perisseia charitos”, and “haris huperpepisseuousa”, — “abounding grace,” “superabounding grace,” exerted in our justification, no more is required thereunto; for how can it be said to abound, yea, to superabound, not only to the freeing of us from condemnation, but the giving of us a title unto life, if in any thing it is to be supplied and eked out by works and duties of our own? The things intended do fill up these expressions, although to some they are but an empty noise.
4. There is a gift of righteousness required unto our justification, which all must receive who are to be justified, and all are justified who do receive it; for they that receive it shall “reign in life by Jesus Christ.” And hence it follows, —
(1.) That the righteousness whereby we are justified before God can be nothing of our own, nothing inherent in us, nothing performed by us. For it is that which is freely given us, and this donation is by imputation: “Blessed is the man unto whom God imputeth righteousness,” chap. 4:6. And by faith we receive what is so given and imputed; and otherwise we contribute nothing unto our participation of it. This it is to be justified in the sense of the apostle.
(1.) The pardon of sin can in no tolerable sense be called “the gift of righteousness.” Pardon of sin is one thing, and righteousness another.
(2.) Pardon of sin does not give right and title unto eternal life. It is true, he whose sins are pardoned shall inherit eternal life; but not merely by virtue of that pardon, but through the imputation of righteousness which does inseparably accompany it, and is the ground of it.
The description which is here given of our justification by grace, in opposition unto the condemnation that we were made liable unto by the sin of Adam, and in exaltation above it, as to the efficacy of grace above that of the first sin, in that thereby not one but all sins are forgiven, and not only so, but a right unto life eternal is communicated unto us, is this: “That we receive the grace of God, and the gift of righteousness;” which gives us a right unto life by Jesus Christ. But this is to be justified by the imputation of the righteousness of Christ, received by faith alone.
The conclusion of what has been evinced, in the management of the comparison insisted on, is fully expressed and farther confirmed, chap. 5:18, 19.
Verse 18. “Therefore, as by the offense of one judgment came upon all men unto condemnation; even so by the righteousness of one the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life.” So we. read the words. “By the offense of one:” the Greek copies vary here. Some read, “Tooi heni paraptoomati”, whom Beza follows, and our translation in the margin, — “By one offense;” most by “Di henos paraptoomatos”, — “By the offense of one;” and so afterwards as unto righteousness: but both are unto the same purpose. For the one offense intended is the offense of one, — that is, of Adam; and the one righteousness is the righteousness of one, — Jesus Christ.
The introduction of this assertion by “apa ouv”, the note of a syllogistical inference, declares what is here asserted to be the substance of the truth pleaded for. And the comparison is continued, “hoos”, — these things have themselves after the same manner.
That which is affirmed on the one side is, “Di’ henos paraptoomatos eis pantas enthroopous eis katakrima”, — “By the sin or fall of one, on all men unto condemnation, ”that is, judgment, say we, repeating “krima” from the foregoing verse. But “krima eis katakrima” is guilt, and that only.
By the sin of one, all men became guilty, and were made obnoxious unto condemnation. The guilt of it is imputed unto all men; for no otherwise can it come upon them unto condemnation, no otherwise can they be rendered obnoxious unto death and judgment on the account thereof. For we have evinced, that by death and condemnation, in this disputation of the apostle, the whole punishment due unto sin is intended. This, therefore, is plain and evident on that hand.
In answer hereunto, the “dikaiooma” of one, as to the causality of justification, is opposed unto the “paraptooma” of the other, as unto its causality unto or of condemnation: “Di’ henos dikaioomatos”, — “By the righteousness of one:” that is, the righteousness that is pleadable “eis dikaioosin”, unto justification; for that is “dikaiooma”, a righteousness pleaded for justification. By this, say our translators, “the free gift came upon all,” repeating “charisma” from the foregoing verse, as they had done “krima” before on the other hand. The Syrian translation renders the words without the aid of any supplement: “Therefore, as by the sin of one, condemnation was unto all men, so by the righteousness of one, justification unto life shall be unto all men”; and the sense of the words is so made plain without the supply of any other word into the text. But whereas in the original the words are not “katakrima eis pantas anthroopous”, but “eis pantas anthroopous eis katakrima”, and so in the latter clause, somewhat from his own foregoing words, is to be supplied to answer the intention of the apostle. And this is “Charisma”, “gratiosa donatio,” “the free grant” of righteousness; or “doorema”, “the free gift” of righteousness unto justification. The righteousness of one, Christ Jesus, is freely granted unto all believers, to the justification of life; for the “all men” here mentioned are described by, and limited unto, them that “receive the abundance of grace, and the gift of righteousness by Christ,” verse 17.
Some vainly pretend from hence a general grant of righteousness and life unto all men, whereof the greatest part are never made partakers; than which nothing can be more opposite nor contradictory unto the apostle’s design. Men are not made guilty of condemnation from the sin of Adam, by such a divine constitution, as that they may, or on some conditions may not, be obnoxious thereunto. Every one, so soon as he actually exists, and by virtue thereof is a descendant from the first Adam, is actually in his own person liable thereunto, and the wrath of God abides on him. And no more are intended on the other side, but those only who, by their relation through faith unto the Lord Christ, the second Adam, are actually interested in the justification of life. Neither is the controversy about the universality of redemption by the death of Christ herein concerned. For those by whom it is asserted do not affirm that it is thence necessary that the free gift unto the justification of life should come on all; for that they know it does not do. And of a provision of righteousness and life for men in case they do believe, although it be true, yet nothing is spoken in this place. Only the certain justification of them that believe, and the way of it, are declared. Nor will the analogy of the comparison here insisted on admit of any such interpretation; for the “all”, on the one hand, are all and only those who derive their being from Adam by natural propagation. If any man might be supposed not to do so, he would not be concerned in his sin or fall. And so really it was with the man Christ Jesus. And those on the other hand, are only those who derive a spiritual life from Christ. Suppose a man not to do so, and he is no way interested in the righteousness of the “one” unto the justification of life. Our argument from the words is this: — As the sin of one that came on all unto condemnation, was the sin of the first Adam imputed unto them; so the righteousness of the one unto the justification of life that comes on all believers, is the righteousness of Christ imputed unto them. And what can be more clearly affirmed or more evidently confirmed than this is by the apostle, I know not.
Yet is it more plainly expressed, verse 19: “For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous.”
This is well explained by Cyrillus Alexandrinus in Joan. lib. 11 cap. 25: “Quemadmodum praevaricatione primi hominis ut in primitiis generis nostri, morti addicti fuimus; eodem modo per obedientiamet justitiam Christi, in quantum seipsum legi subjecit, quamvis legis author esset, benedictio et vivificatio quae per Spiritum est, ad totam nostram penetravit naturam”. And by Leo, Epist. 12 ad Juvenalem: “Ut autem reparet omnium vitam, recepit omnium causam; at sicut per unius reatum omnes facti fuerunt peccatores, its per unius innocentiam omnes fierent innocentes; inde in homines manaret justitia, ubi est humana suscepta natura.”
That which he before called “paraptooma” and “dikaiooma” he now expresses by “parako-e” and “hupako-e”, — “disobedience” and “obedience.” The “parako-e” of Adam, or his disobedience, was his actual transgression of the law of God. Hereby, says the apostle, “many were made sinners,” sinners in such a sense as to be obnoxious unto death and condemnation; for liable unto death they could not be made, unless they were first made sinners or guilty. And this they could not be, but that they are esteemed to have sinned in him, whereon the guilt of his sin was imputed unto them. This, therefore, he affirms, — namely, that the actual sin of Adam was so the sin of all men, as that they were made sinners thereby, obnoxious unto death and condemnation.
That which he opposes hereunto is “he hupako-e”, — “the obedience of one;” that is, of Jesus Christ. And this was the actual obedience that he yielded unto the whole law of God. For as the disobedience of Adam was his actual transgression of the whole law, so the obedience of Christ was his actual accomplishment or fulfilling of the whole law. This the antithesis does require.
Hereby many are made righteous. How? By the imputation of that obedience unto them. For so, and no otherwise, are men made sinners by the imputation of the disobedience of Adam. And this is that which gives us a right and title unto eternal life, as the apostle declares, verse 21, “That as sin reigned unto death, even so might grace reign through righteousness unto eternal life.” This righteousness is no other but the “obedience of one”, — that is, of Christ, — as it is called, verse 10. And it is said to “come” upon us, — that is, to be imputed unto us; for “Blessed is the man unto whom God imputeth righteousness.” And hereby we have not only deliverance from that death and condemnation whereunto we were liable by the sin of Adam, but the pardon of many offenses, — that is, of all our personal sins, — and a right unto life eternal through the grace of God; for we are “justified freely by his grace, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.”
And these things are thus plainly and fully delivered by the apostle; unto whose sense and expressions also (so far as may be) it is our duty to accommodate ours. What is offered in opposition hereunto is so made up of exceptions, evasions, and perplexed disputes, and leads us so far off from the plain words of the Scripture, that the conscience of a convinced sinner knows not what to fix upon to give it rest and satisfaction, nor what it is that is to be believed unto justification.
Piscatory, in his scholia on this chapter and elsewhere, insists much on a specious argument against the imputation of the obedience of Christ unto our justification; but it proceeds evidently on an open mistake and false supposition, as well as it is contradictory unto the plain words of the text.
It is true, which he observes and proves, that our redemption, reconciliation, pardon of sin, and justification, are often ascribed unto the death and blood of Christ in a signal manner. The reasons of it have partly been intimated before; and a farther account of them shall be given immediately. But it does not thence follow that the obedience of his life, wherein he fulfilled the whole law, being made under it for us, is excluded from any causality therein, or is not imputed unto us. But in opposition hereunto he thus argues: — “Si obedientia vitae Christi nobis ad justitiam imputaretur, non fuit opus Christum pro nobis mori; mori enim necesse fuit pro nobis injustus”, Peter 3:18. “Quod si ergo justi effecti sumus per vitam illius, causa nulla relicta fuit cur pro nobis moreretur; quia justitia Dei non patitur ut puniat justos. At punivit nos in Christo, seu quod idem valet punivit Christum pro nobis, et loco nostri, posteaquam ille sancte vixisset, ut certum est e Scriptura. Ergo non sumus justi effecti per sanctam vitam Christi..Item, Christus mortuus est ut justitiam illam Dei nobis acquireret”, Corinthians 5:21. “Non igitur illam acquisiverat ante mortem”.
But this whole argument, I say, proceeds upon an evident mistake; for it supposes such an order of things as that the obedience of Christ, or his righteousness in fulfilling the law, is first imputed unto us, and then the righteousness of his death is afterwards to take place, or to be imputed unto us; which, on that supposition, he says, would be of no use. But no such order or divine constitution is pleaded or pretended in our justification. It is true, the life of Christ and his obedience unto the law did precede his sufferings, and undergoing the curse thereof, — neither could it otherwise be, for this order of these things between themselves was made necessary from the law of nature, — but it does not thence follow that it must be observed in the imputation or application of them unto us. For this is an effect of sovereign wisdom and grace, not respecting the natural order of Christ’s obedience and suffering, but the moral order of the things whereunto they are appointed. And although we need not assert, nor do I so do, different acts of the imputation of the obedience of Christ unto the justification of life, or a right and title unto life eternal, and of the suffering of Christ unto the pardon of our sins and freedom from condemnation, — but by both we have both, according unto the ordinance of God, that Christ may be all in all, — yet as unto the effects themselves, in the method of God’s bringing sinners unto the justification of life, the application of the death of Christ unto them, unto the pardon of sin and freedom from condemnation, is, in order of nature, and in the exercise of faith, antecedent unto the application of his obedience unto us for a right and title unto life eternal.
The state of the person to be justified is a state of sin and wrath, wherein he is liable unto death and condemnation. This is that which a convinced sinner is sensible of, and which alone, in the first place, he seeks for deliverance from: “What shall we do to be saved?” This, in the first place, is represented unto him in the doctrine and promise of the gospel; which is the rule and instrument of its application. And this is (by) the death of Christ. Without this no actual righteousness imputed unto him, not the obedience of Christ himself, will give him relief; for he is sensible that he has sinned, and thereby come short of the glory of God, and under the sentence condemnatory of the law. Until he receives a deliverance from hence, it is to no purpose to propose that unto him which should give him right unto life eternal. But upon a supposition hereof, he is no less concerned in what shall yet farther give him title whereunto, that he may reign in life through righteousness. Herein, I say, in its order, conscience is no less concerned than in deliverance from condemnation. And this order is expressed in the declaration of the fruit and effects of the mediation of Christ, Daniel 9:24, “To make reconciliation for iniquity, and to bring in everlasting righteousness.” Neither is there any force in the objection against it, that actually the obedience of Christ did precede his suffering: for the method of their application is not prescribed thereby; and the state of sinners to be justified, with the nature of their justification, requires it should be otherwise, as God also has ordained. But because the obedience and sufferings of Christ were concomitant from first to last, both equally belonging unto his state of exinanition, and cannot in any act or instance be separated, but only in notion or imagination, seeing he suffered in all his obedience and obeyed in all his sufferings, Hebrews 5:8; and neither part of our justification, in freedom from condemnation and right unto life eternal, can be supposed to be or exist without the other, according unto the ordinance and constitution of God; the whole effect is jointly to be ascribed unto the whole mediation of Christ, so far as he acted towards God in our behalf, wherein he fulfilled the whole law, both as to the penalty exacted of sinners and the righteousness it requires unto life as an eternal reward. And there are many reasons why our justification is, in the Scripture, by way of eminency, ascribed unto the death and blood-shedding of Christ.
1. The grace and love of God, the principal, efficient cause of our justification, are therein made most eminent and conspicuous; for this is most frequently in the Scripture proposed unto us as the highest instance and undeniable demonstration of divine love and grace. And this is that which principally we are to consider in our justification, the glory of them being the end of God therein. He “made us accepted in the Beloved, to the praise of the glory of his grace,” Ephesians 1:6. Wherefore, this being the fountain, spring, and sole cause, both of the obedience of Christ and of the imputation thereof unto us, with the pardon of sin and righteousness thereby, it is everywhere in the Scripture proposed as the prime object of our faith in our justification, and opposed directly unto all our own works whatever. The whole of God’s design herein is, that “grace may reign through righteousness unto eternal life.” Whereas, therefore, this is made most evident and conspicuous in the death of Christ, our justification is in a peculiar manner assigned thereunto.
2. The love of Christ himself and his grace are peculiarly exalted in our justification: “That all men may honor the Son even as they honor the Father.” Frequently are they expressed unto this purpose, 2 Corinthians 8:9; Galatians 2:20; Philippians 2:6,7; Revelation 1:5,6. And those also are most eminently exalted in his death, so as that all the effects and fruits of them are ascribed thereunto in a peculiar manner; as nothing is more ordinary than, among many things that concur to the same effect, to ascribe it unto that which is most eminent among them, especially if it cannot be conceived as separated from the rest.
3. This is the clearest testimony that what the Lord Christ did and suffered was for us, and not for himself; for without the consideration hereof, all the obedience which he yielded unto the law might be looked on as due only on his own account, and himself to have been such a Savior as the Socinians imagine, who should do all with us from God, and nothing with God for us. But the suffering of the curse of the law by him who was not only an innocent man, but also the Son of God, openly testifies that what he did and suffered was for us, and not for himself. It is no wonder, therefore, if our faith as unto justification be in the first place, and principally, directed unto his death and blood-shedding.
4. All the obedience of Christ had still respect unto the sacrifice of himself which was to ensue, wherein it received its accomplishment, and whereon its efficacy unto our justification did depend: for as no imputation of actual obedience would justify sinners from the condemnation that was passed on them for the sin of Adam; so, although the obedience of Christ was not a mere preparation or qualification of his person for his suffering, yet its efficacy unto our justification did depend on his suffering that was to ensue, when his soul was made an offering for sin.
5. As was before observed, reconciliation and the pardon of sin through the blood of Christ do directly, in the first place, respect our relief from the state and condition whereinto we were cast by the sin of Adam, — in the loss of the favor of God, and liableness unto death. This, therefore, is that which principally, and in the first place, a lost convinced sinner, such as Christ calls unto himself, does look after. And therefore justification is eminently and frequently proposed as the effect of the blood-shedding and death of Christ, which are the direct cause of our reconciliation and pardon of sin. But yet from none of these considerations does it follow that the obedience of the one man, Christ Jesus, is not imputed unto us, whereby grace might reign through righteousness unto eternal life.
The same truth is fully asserted and confirmed, Romans 8:1-4. But this place has been of late so explained and so vindicated by another, in his learned and judicious exposition of it (namely, Dr. Jacomb), as that nothing remains of weight to be added unto what has been pleaded and argued by him, part 1 verse 4, p.587, and onwards. And indeed the answers which he subjoins (to the arguments whereby he confirms the truth) to the most usual and important objections against the imputation of the righteousness of Christ, are sufficient to give just satisfaction unto the minds of unprejudiced, unengaged persons. I shall therefore pass over this testimony, as that which has been so lately pleaded and vindicated, and not press the same things, it may be (as is not unusual) unto their disadvantage.
Romans 10:3,4. “For they” (the Jews, who had a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge), “being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God. For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness unto every one that believeth.”
What is here determined, the apostle enters upon the proposition and declaration of, chap. 9:30. And because what he had to propose was somewhat strange, and unsuited unto the common apprehensions of men, he introduces it with that prefatory interrogation, “Ti oun eroumen;” (which he uses on the like occasions, chap. 3:5; 6:1; 7:7; 9:14) — “What shall we say then?” that is, “Is there in this matter ‘unrighteousness with God?’” as verse 14; or, “What shall we say unto these things?” or, “This is that which is to be said herein.” That which hereon he asserts is, “That the Gentiles, which followed not after righteousness, have attained to righteousness, even the righteousness which is of faith; but Israel, which followed after the law of righteousness, has not attained to the law of righteousness;” that is, unto righteousness itself before God.
Nothing seems to be more contrary unto reason than what is here made manifest by the event. The Gentiles, who lived in sin and pleasures, not once endeavoring to attain unto any righteousness before God, yet attained unto it upon the preaching of the gospel. Israel, on the other hand, which followed after righteousness diligently in all the works of the law, and duties of obedience unto God thereby, came short of it, attained not unto it. All preparations, all dispositions, all merit, as unto righteousness and justification, are excluded from the Gentiles; for in all of them there is more or less a following after righteousness, which is denied of them all. Only by faith in him who justifieth the ungodly, they attain righteousness, or they attained the righteousness of faith. For to attain righteousness by faith, and to attain the righteousness which is of faith, are the same.
Wherefore, all things that are comprised any way in following after righteousness, such as are all our duties and works, are excluded from any influence into our justification. And this is expressed to declare the sovereignty and freedom of the grace of God herein, — name)y, that we are justified freely by his grace, — and that on our part all boasting is excluded. Let men pretend what they will, and dispute. what they please, those who attain unto righteousness and justification before God, when they follow not after righteousness, they do it by the gratuitous imputation of the righteousness of another unto them.
It may be it will be said: “It is true in the time of their heathenism they did not at all follow after righteousness, but when the truth of the gospel was revealed unto them, then they followed after righteousness, and did attain it.” But, —
1. This is directly to contradict the apostle, in that it says that they attained not righteousness but only as they followed after righteousness; whereas he affirms the direct contrary.
2. It takes away the distinction which he puts between them and Israel, — namely, that the one followed after righteousness, and the other did not.
3. To follow after righteousness, in this place, is to follow after a righteousness of our own: “To establish their own righteousness,” chap. 10:3. But this is so far from being a means of attaining righteousness, as that it is the most effectual obstruction thereof.
If, therefore, those who have no righteousness of their own, who are so far from it that they never endeavored to attain it, do yet by faith receive that righteousness wherewith they are justified before God, they do so by the imputation of the righteousness of Christ unto them; or let some other way be assigned.
In the other side of the instance, concerning Israel, some must hear, whether they will or not, that wherewith they are not pleased.
Three things are expressed of them: —
1. Their attempt. 2 Their success.
3. The reason of it.
1. Their attempt or endeavor was in this, that they “followed after the law of righteousness.” “Diookoo”, the word whereby their endeavor is expressed, signifies that which is earnest, diligent, and sincere. By it does the apostle declare what his (endeavor) was, and what ours ought to be, in the duties and exercise of gospel obedience, Philippians 3:12. They were not in diligent in this matter, but “instantly served God day and night.”
Nor were they hypocritical; for the apostle bears them record in this matter, that “they had a zeal of God,” Romans 10:2. And that which they thus endeavored after was “nomos dikaiosunes”, — “the law of righteousness,” that law which prescribed a perfect personal righteousness before God; “the things which if a man do them, he shall live in them,” chap. 10:5. Wherefore, the apostle has no other respect unto the ceremonial law in this place but only as it was branched out from the moral law by the will of God, and as the obedience unto it belonged thereunto. When he speaks of it separately, he calls it “the law of commandments contained in ordinances;” but it is nowhere called “the law of righteousness,” the law whose righteousness is fulfilled in us, chap. 8:9a. Wherefore, the following after this law of righteousness was their diligence in the performance of all duties of obedience, according unto the directions and precepts of the moral law.
2. The issue of this attempt is, that they “attained not unto the law of righteousness,” “eis nomon dikaiosunes ouk efthase”, — that is, they attained not unto a righteousness before God hereby. Though this was the end of the law, namely, a righteousness before God, wherein a man might live, yet could they never attain it.
3. An account is given of the reason of their failing in attaining that which they so earnestly endeavored after. And this was in a double mistake that they were under; — first, In the means of attaining it; secondly, In the righteousness itself that was to be sought after. The first is declared, chap. 9:32, “Because not by faith, but as it were by the works of the law.” Faith and works are the two only ways whereby righteousness may be attained, and they are opposite and inconsistent; so that none does or can seek after righteousness by them both. They will not be mixed and made one entire means of attaining righteousness. They are opposed as grace and works; what is of the one is not of the other, chap. 11:6. Every composition of them in this matter is, “Male sarta gratia nequicquam coit et rescinditur”.
And the reason is, because the righteousness which faith seeks after, or which is attainable by faith, is that which is given to us, imputed unto us, which faith does only receive. It receives “the abundance of grace, and the gift of righteousness.” But that which is attainable by works is our own, inherent in us, wrought out by us, and not imputed unto us; for it is nothing but those works themselves, with respect unto the law of God.
And if righteousness before God be to be obtained alone by faith, and that in contradiction unto all works, — which if a man do them, according unto the law, “he shall even live in them,” then is it by faith alone that we are justified before God, or, nothing else on our part is required thereunto.
And of what nature this righteousness must be is eviDeuteronomy Again: if faith and works are opposed as contrary and inconsistent, when considered as the means of attaining righteousness or justification before God, as plainly they are, then is it impossible we should be justified before God by them in the same sense, way, and manner. Wherefore, when the apostle James affirms that a man is justified by works, and not by faith only, he cannot intend our justification before God, where it is impossible they should both concur; for not only are they declared inconsistent by the apostle in this place, but it would introduce several sorts of righteousness into justification, that are inconsistent and destructive of each other. This was the first mistake of the Jews, whence this miscarriage ensued, — they sought not after righteousness by faith, but as it were by the works of the law.
Their second mistake was as unto the righteousness itself whereon a man might be justified before God; for this they judged was to be their own righteousness, chap. 10:3. Their own personal righteousness, consisting in their own duties of obedience, they looked on as the only righteousness whereon they might be justified before God. This, therefore, they went about to establish, as the Pharisee did, Luke 18:11,12: and this mistake, with their design thereon, “to establish their own righteousness,” was the principal cause that made them reject the righteousness of God; as it is with many at this day.
Whatever is done in us, or performed by us, as obedience unto God, is our own righteousness. Though it be done in faith, and by the aids of God’s grace, yet is it subjectively ours, and, so far as it is a righteousness, it is our own. But all righteousness whatever, which is our own, is so far diverse from the righteousness by which we are to be justified before God, as that the most earnest endeavor to establish it, — that is, to render it such as by which we may be justified, — is an effectual means to cause us to refuse a submission unto, and an acceptance of, that whereby alone we may be so.
This ruined the Jews, and will be the ruin of all that shall follow their example in seeking after justification; yet is it not easy for men to take any other way, or to be taken off from this. So the apostle intimates in that expression, “They submitted not themselves unto the righteousness of God.” This righteousness of God is of that nature that the proud mind of man is altogether unwilling to bow and submit itself unto; yet can it no otherwise be attained, but by such a submission or subjection of mind as contains in it a total renunciation of any righteousness of our own. And those who reproach others for affirming that men endeavoring after morality, or moral righteousness, and resting therein, are in no good way for the participation of the grace of God by Jesus Christ, do expressly deride the doctrine of the apostle; that is, of the Holy Ghost himself Wherefore, the plain design of the apostle is, to declare that not only faith and the righteousness of it, and a righteousness of our own by works, are inconsistent, that is, as unto our justification before God; but also, that the intermixture of our own works, in seeking after righteousness, as the means thereof, does wholly divert us from the acceptance of or submission unto the righteousness of God. For the righteousness which is of faith is not our own; it is the righteousness of God, — that which he imputes unto us. But the righteousness of works is our own, — that which is wrought in us and by us. And as works have no aptitude nor meekness in themselves to attain or receive a righteousness which, because it is not our own, is imputed unto us, but are repugnant unto it, as that which will cast them down from their legal dignity of being our righteousness; so faith has no aptitude nor meekness in itself to be an inherent righteousness, or so to be esteemed, or as such to be imputed unto us, seeing its principal faculty and efficacy consist in fixing all the trust, confidence, and expectation of the soul, for righteousness and acceptation with God, upon another.
Here was the ruin of those Jews: they judged it a better, a more probable, yea, a more righteous and holy way for them, constantly to endeavor after a righteousness of their own, by duties of obedience unto the law of God, than to imagine that they could come to acceptance with God by faith in another. For tell them, and such as they, what you please, if they have not a righteousness of their own, that they can set upon its legs, and make to stand before God, the law will not have its accomplishment, and so will condemn them.
To demolish this last sort of unbelief, the apostle grants that the law must have its end, and he completely fulfilled, or there is no appearing for us as righteous before God; and withal shows them how this is done, and where alone it is to be sought after: for “Christ,” says he, “is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth,” Romans 10:4. We need not trouble ourselves to inquire in what various senses Christ may be said to be “telos nomou”, — “the end,” the complement, the perfection, “of the law.” The apostle sufficiently determines his intention, in affirming not absolutely that he is the end of the law, but he is so “eis dikaiosunen”, “for righteousness,” unto every one that believes. The matter in question is a righteousness unto justification before God. And this is acknowledged to be the righteousness which the law requires. God looks for no righteousness from us but what is prescribed in the law. The law is nothing but the rule of righteousness, — God’s prescription of a righteousness, and all the duties of it, unto us. That we should be righteous herewith before God was the first, original end of the law. Its other ends at present, of the conviction of sin, and judging or condemning for it, were accidental unto its primitive constitution. This righteousness which the law requires, which is all and only that righteousness which God requires of us, the accomplishment of this end of the law, the Jews sought after by their own personal performance of the works and duties of it. But hereby, in the utmost of their endeavors, they could never Fulfill this righteousness, nor attain this end of the law; which yet if men do not they must perish for ever.
Wherefore, the apostle declares, that all this is done another way; that the righteousness of the law is fulfilled, and its end, as unto a righteousness before God, attained; and that is in and by Christ. For what the law required, that he accomplished; which is accounted unto every one that believes.
Herein the apostle issues the whole disquisition about a righteousness wherewith we may be justified before God, and, in particular, how satisfaction is given unto the demands of the law. That which we could not do, — that which the law could not effect in us, in that it was weak through the flesh, — that which we could not attain by the works and duties of it, — that Christ has done for us; and so is “the end of the law for righteousness unto every one that believeth.”
The law demands a righteousness of us; the accomplishment of this righteousness is the end which it aims at, and which is necessary unto our justification before God. This is not to be attained by any works of our own, by any righteousness of our own. But the Lord Christ is this for us, and unto us; which, how he is or can be but by the imputation of his obedience and righteousness in the accomplishment of the law, I cannot understand; I am sure the apostle does not declare.
The way whereby we attain unto this end of the law, which we cannot do by our utmost endeavors to establish our own righteousness, is by faith alone, for “Christ is the end of the law for righteousness unto every one that believeth.” To mix any thing with faith herein, as it is repugnant unto the nature of faith and works, with respect unto their aptitude and meekness for the attaining of a righteousness, so it is as directly contradictory unto the express design and words of the apostle as any thing that can be invented.
Let men please themselves with their distinctions, which I understand not (and yet, perhaps, should be ashamed to say so, but that I am persuaded they understand them not themselves by whom they are used), or with cavils, objections, feigned consequences, which I value not; here I shall forever desire to fix my soul, and herein to acquiesce, — namely, that “Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that does believe.” And I do suppose, that all they who understand aright what it is that the law of God does require of them, how needful it is that it be complied withal, and that the end of it be accomplished, with the utter insufficiency of their own endeavors unto those ends, will, at least when the time of disputing is over, retake themselves unto the same refuge and rest.
The next place I shall consider in the epistles of this apostle is, — 1 Corinthians 1:30. “But of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption.”
The design of the apostle in these words is to manifest, that whatever is wanting unto us on any account that we may please God, live unto him, and come to the enjoyment of him, that we have in and, by Jesus Christ; and this on the part of God from mere free and sovereign grace, as verses 26-29 do declare. And we have all these things by virtue of our insition or implantation in him: “ex autou”, — “from,” “of,” or “by him.” He by his grace is the principal, efficient cause hereof. And the effect is, that we are “in Christ Jesus,” that is, ingrafted in him, or united unto him, as members of his mystical body; which is the constant sense of that expression in the Scripture. And the benefits which we receive hereby are enumerated in the following words. But, first, the way whereby we are made partakers of them, or they are communicated unto us, is declared: “Who of God is made unto us.” It is so ordained of God, that he himself shall be made or become all this unto us: “Hos egenethe hemin apo Theou”, where “apo” denotes the efficient cause, as “ex” did before. But how is Christ thus made unto us of God, or what act of God is it that is intended thereby?
Socinus says it is “a general act of the providence of God, whence it is come to pass, or is so fallen out, that one way or other the Lord Christ should be said to be all this unto us.” But it is an especial ordinance and institution of God’s sovereign grace and wisdom, designing Christ to be all this unto us and for us, with actual imputation thereon, and nothing else, that is intended. Whatever interest, therefore, we have in Christ, and whatever benefit we have by him, it all depends on the sovereign grace and constitution of God, and not on any thing in ourselves. Whereas, then, we have no righteousness of our own, he is appointed of God to be our “righteousness,” and is made so unto us: which can be no otherwise, but that his righteousness is made ours; for he is made it unto us (as he is likewise the other things mentioned) so as that all boasting, that is in ourselves, should be utterly excluded, and that “he that glorieth should glory in the Lord,” verses 29-31. Now, there is such a righteousness, or such a way of being righteous, whereon we may have somewhat to glory, Romans 4:2, and which does not exclude boasting, chap. 3:27. And this cannot possibly be but when our righteousness is inherent in us; for that, however it may be procured, or purchased, or wrought in us, is yet our own, so far as any thing can be our own whilst we are creatures. This kind of righteousness, therefore, is here excluded. And the Lord Christ being so made righteousness unto us of God as that all boasting and glorying on our part, or in ourselves, may be excluded, — yea, being made so for this very end, that so it should be, — it can be no otherwise but by the imputation of his righteousness unto us; for thereby is the grace of God, the honor of his person and mediation exalted, and all occasion of glorying in ourselves utterly prescinded. We desire no more from this testimony, but that whereas we are in ourselves destitute of all righteousness in the sight of God, Christ is, by a gracious act of divine imputation, made of God righteousness unto us, in such a way as that all our glorying ought to be in the grace of God, and the righteousness of Christ himself. Bellarmine attempts three answers unto this testimony, the two first whereof are coincident; and, in the third, being on the rack of light and truth, he confesses, and grants all that we plead for.
1. He says, “That Christ is said to be our righteousness, because he is the efficient cause of it, as God is said to be our strength; and so there is in the words a metonymy of the effect for the cause.” And I say it is true, that the Lord Christ by his Spirit is the efficient cause of our personal, inherent righteousness. By his grace it is effected and wrought in us; he renews our natures into the image of God, and without him we can do nothing: so that our habitual and actual righteousness is from him. But this personal righteousness is our sanctification, and nothing else. And although the same internal habit of inherent grace, with operations suitable thereunto, be sometimes called our sanctification, and sometimes our righteousness, with respect unto those operations, yet is it never distinguished into our sanctification and our righteousness. But his being made righteousness unto us in this place is absolutely distinct from his being made sanctification unto us; which is that inherent righteousness which is wrought in us by the Spirit and grace of Christ. And his working personal righteousness in us, which is our sanctification, and the imputation of his righteousness unto us, whereby we are made righteous before God, are not only consistent, but the one of them cannot be without the other.
2. He pleads, “That Christ is said to be made righteousness unto us, as he is made redemption. Now, he is our redemption, because he has redeemed us. So is he said to be made righteousness unto us, because by him we become righteous;” or, as another speaks, “because by him alone we are justified.” This is the same plea with the former, — namely, that there is a metonymy of the effect for the cause in all these expressions; yet what cause they intend it to be who expound the words, “By him alone we are justified,” I do not understand. But Bellarmine is approaching yet nearer the truth: for as Christ is said to be made of God redemption unto us, because by his blood we are redeemed, or freed from sin, death, and hell, by the ransom he paid for us, or have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins; so he is said to be made righteousness unto us, because through his righteousness granted unto us of God (as God’s making him to be righteousness unto us, and our becoming the righteousness of God in him, and the imputation of his righteousness unto us, that we may be righteous before God, are the same), we are justified.
His third answer, as was before observed, grants the whole of what we plead; for it is the same which he gives unto Jeremiah 23:6: which place he conjoins with this, as of the same sense and importance, giving up his whole cause in satisfaction unto them, in the words before described, lib. cap. 10.
Socinus prefaces his answer unto this testimony with an admiration that any should make use of it, or plead it in this cause, it is so impertinent unto the purpose. And, indeed, a pretended contempt of the arguments of his adversaries is the principal artifice he makes use of in all his replies and evasions; wherein I am sorry to see that he is followed by most of them who, together with him, do oppose the imputation of the righteousness of Christ. And so of late the use of this testimony, which reduced Bellarmine to so great a strait, is admired at on the only ground and reason wherewith it is opposed by Socinus. Yet are his exceptions unto it such as that I cannot also but a little, on the other hand, wonder that any learned man should be troubled with them, or seduced by them; for he only pleads, “That if Christ be said to be made righteousness unto us because his righteousness is imputed unto us, then is he said to be made wisdom unto us because his wisdom is so imputed, and so of his sanctification; which none will allow: yea, he must be redeemed for us, and his redemption be imputed unto us.” But there is nothing of force nor truth in this pretense: for it is built only on this supposition, that Christ must be made unto us of God all these things in the same way and manner; whereas they are of such different natures that it is utterly impossible he should so be. For instance, he is made sanctification unto us, in that by his Spirit and grace we are freely sanctified; but he cannot be said to be made redemption unto us, in that by his Spirit and grace we are freely redeemed. And if he is said to be made righteousness unto us, because by his Spirit and grace he works inherent righteousness in us, then is it plainly the same with his being made sanctification unto us. Neither does he himself believe that Christ is made all these things unto us in the same way and manner; and therefore does he not assign any special way whereby he is so made them all, but clouds it in an ambiguous expression, that he becomes all these things unto us in the providence of God. But ask him in particular, how Christ is made sanctification unto us, and he will tell you that it was by his doctrine and example alone, with some such general assistance of the Spirit of God as he will allow. But now, this is no way at all whereby Christ was made redemption unto us; which being a thing external, and not wrought in us, Christ can be no otherwise made redemption unto us than by the imputation unto us of what he did that we might be redeemed, or reckoning it on our account; — not that he was redeemed for us, as he childishly cavils, but that he did that whereby we are redeemed.
Wherefore, Christ is made of God righteousness unto us in such a way and manner as the nature of the thing does require. Say some, “It is because by him we are justified.” Howbeit the text says not that by him we are justified, but that he is of God made righteousness unto us; which is not our justification, but the ground, cause, and reason whereon we are justified. Righteousness is one thing, and justification is another.
Wherefore we must inquire how we come to have that righteousness whereby we are justified; and this the same apostle tells us plainly is by imputation: “Blessed is the man unto whom the Lord imputeth righteousness,” Romans 4:6. It follows, then, that Christ being made unto us of God righteousness, can have no other sense but that his righteousness is imputed unto us, which is what this text does undeniably confirm. 2 Corinthians 5:21. The truth pleaded for is yet more emphatically expressed: “For he has made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.” The paraphrase of Austin on these words gives the sense of them: “Ipse peccatum ut nos justitia, non nostra sed Dei, non in nobis sed in ipso; sicut ipse peccatum non suum sed nostrum, non in se, sed in nobis constitutum”, Enchirid. ad Laurent., cap.
To set out the greatness of the grace of God in our reconciliation by Christ, he describes him by that paraphrases, “ton me gnonta hamartian”, — “who knew no sin,” or “who knew not sin.” He knew sin in the notion or understanding of its nature, and he knew it experimentally in the effects which he underwent and suffered; but he knew it not, — that is, was most remote from it, — as to its commission or guilt. So that “he knew no sin,” is absolutely no more but “he did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth,” as it is expressed, 1 Peter 2:22; or that he was “holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners,” Hebrews 7:26. Howbeit, there is an emphasis in the expression, which is not to be neglected: for as it is observed by Chrysostom, as containing an auxesis (“ouchi ton me hamartanonta monon legei alle ton mede gnonta hamartian”), and by sundry learned persons after him; so those who desire to learn the excellency of the grace of God herein, will have an impression of a sense of it on their minds from this emphatical expression, which the Holy Ghost chose to make use of unto that end; and the observation of it is not to be despised. “He has made him to be sin;” “That is,” say many expositors, “a sacrifice for sin.” “Quemadmodum oblatus est pro peccatis, non immerito peccatum factus dicitur, quia et bestia in lege quae pro peccatis offerabatur, peccatum nuncupatur”, Ambrose. in locum. So the sin and trespass-offering are often expressed by “chattat” and “‘asham”, — “the sin” and “trespass,” or “guilt.” And I shall not contend about this exposition, because that signified in it is according unto the truth. But there is another more proper signification of the word: “hamartia” being put for “hamartoolos”, — “sin,” for a “sinner,” (that is, passively, not actively; not by inhesion, but imputation); for this the phrase of speech and force of the antithesis seem to require. Speaking of another sense, Estius himself on the place adds, as that which he approves: “Hic intellectus explicandus est per commentarium Graecorum Chrysostomi et caeterorum; quia peccatum emphatic ‘hoos’ interpretantur magnum peccatorem; ac si dicat apostolus, nostri causa tractavit eum tanquam ipsum peccatum, ipsum scelus, id est, tanquam hominem insigniter sceleratum, ut in quo posuerit iniquitates omnium nostrum”. And if this be the interpretation of the Greek scholiasts, as indeed it is, Luther was not the first who affirmed that Christ was made the greatest sinner, — namely, by imputation. But we shall allow the former exposition, provided that the true notion of a sin-offering, or expiatory sacrifice, be admitted: for although this neither was nor could consist in the transfusion of the inherent sin of the person into the sacrifice, yet did it so in the translation of the guilt of the sinner unto it; as is fully declared, Leviticus 16:20,21.
Only I must say, that I grant this signification of the word to avoid contention; for whereas some say that “hamartia” signifies sin, and a sacrifice for sin, it cannot be allowed. “Chata’”, in Kal, signifies “to err, to sin, to transgress the law of God.” In Piel it has a contrary signification, — namely, “to cleanse from sin,” or “to make expiation of sin.” Hence “chattat” is most frequently used with respect unto its derivation from the first conjugation, and signifies “sin,” “transgression,” and “guilt;” but sometimes with respect unto the second, and then it signifies “a sacrifice for sin, to make expiation of it.” And so it is rendered by the LXX, sometimes by “hilasmos”, Ezekiel 44:27, sometimes “exilasmos”, Exodus 30:10, Ezekiel 43:22, a “propitiation,” a “propitiatory sacrifice;” sometimes by “hagnisma”, Numbers 19:19, and “hagnismos”, “purification,” or “cleansing.” But “hamartia”, absolutely, does nowhere, in any good author, nor in the Scripture, signify a sacrifice for sin, unless it may be allowed to do so in this one place alone. For whereas the LXX do render “chattat” constantly by “hamartia”, where it signifies sin; where it denotes an offering for sin, and they retain that word, they do it by “peri hamartias”, an elliptical expression, which they invented for that which they knew “hamartia” of itself neither did nor could signify, Leviticus 4:3,14,32,35; 5:6-11; 6:30; 8:2. And they never omit the preposition unless they name the sacrifice; as “moschos tes hamartias”. This is observed also by the apostle in the New Testament; for twice, expressing the sin-offering by this word, he uses that phrase “peri hamartias”, Romans 8:3, Hebrews 10:6; but nowhere uses “hamartia” to that purpose. If it be, therefore, of that signification in this place, it is so here alone. And whereas some think that it answers “piaculum” in the Latin, it is also a mistake; for the first signification of “hamartia” is confessed to be sin, and they would have it supposed that thence it is abused to signify a sacrifice for sin. But “piaculum” is properly a sacrifice, or any thing whereby sin is expiated, or satisfaction is made for it. And very rarely it is abused to denote such a sin or crime as deserves pubic expiation, and is not otherwise to be pardoned; so Virgil, — “Distulit in seram commissa piacula mortem”. — AEn.6, 569.
But we shall not contend about words, whilst we can agree about what is intended.
The only inquiry is, how God did make him to be sin? “He has made him to be sin;” so that an act of God is intended. And this is elsewhere expressed by his “laying all our iniquities upon him,” or causing them to meet on him, Isaiah 53:6. And this was by the imputation of our sins unto him, as the sins of the people were put on the head of the goat, that they should be no more theirs, but his, so as that he was to carry them away from them. Take sin in either sense before mentioned, either of a sacrifice for sin, or a sinner, and the imputation of the guilt of sin antecedently unto the punishment of it, and in order whereunto, must be understood. For in every sacrifice for sin there was an imposition of sin on the beast to be offered, antecedent unto the sacrificing of it, and therein its suffering by death. Therefore, in every offering for sin, he that brought it was to “put his hand on the head of it,” Leviticus 1:4. And that the transferring of the guilt of sin unto the offering was thereby signified, is expressly declared, Leviticus 16:21. Wherefore, if God made the Lord Christ a sin-offering for us, it was by the imputation of the guilt of sin unto him antecedently unto his suffering. Nor could any offering be made for sin, without a typical translation of the guilt of sin unto it. And, therefore, when an offering was made for the expiation of the guilt of an uncertain murder, those who were to make it by the law, namely, the elders of the city that was next unto the place where the man was slain, — were not to offer a sacrifice, because there was none to confess guilt over it, or to lay guilt upon it; but whereas the neck of a heifer was to be stricken off, to declare the punishment due unto blood, they were to wash their hands over it to testify their own innocence, Deuteronomy 21:1-8. But a sacrifice for sin without the imputation of guilt there could not be. And if the word be taken in the second sense, — namely, for a sinner, that is, by imputation, and in God’s esteem, — it must be by the imputation of guilt; for none can, in any sense, be denominated a sinner from mere suffering. None, indeed, do say that Christ was made sin by the imputation of punishment unto him, which has no proper sense; but they say sin was imputed unto him as unto punishment: which is indeed to say that the guilt of sin was imputed unto him; for the guilt of sin is its respect unto punishment, or the obligation unto punishment which attends it. And that any one should be punished for sin without the imputation of the guilt of it unto him, is impossible; and, were it possible, would be unjust: for it is not possible that any one should be punished for sin properly, and yet that sin be none of his. And if it be not his by inhesion, it can be his no other way but by imputation. One may suffer on the occasion of the sin of another that is no way made his, but he cannot be punished for it; for punishment is the recompense of sin on the account of its guilt. And were it possible, where is the righteousness of punishing any one for that which no way belongs unto him? Besides, imputation of sin, and punishing, are distinct acts, the one preceding the other; and therefore the former is only of the guilt of sin: wherefore, the Lord Christ was made sin for us, by the imputation of the guilt of our sins unto him.
But it is said, that if “the guilt of sin were imputed unto Christ, he is excluded from all possibility of merit, for he suffered but what was his due; and so the whole work of Christ’s satisfaction is subverted. This must be so, if God in judgment did reckon him guilty and a sinner.” But there is an ambiguity in these expressions. If it be meant that God in judgment did reckon him guilty and a sinner inherently in his own person, no such thing is intended. But God laid all our sins on him, and in judgment spared him not, as unto what was due unto them. And so he suffered not what was his due upon his own account, but what was due unto our sin: which it is impiety to deny; for if it were not so, he died in vain, and we are still in our sins. And as his satisfaction consists herein, nor could be without it, so does it not in the least derogate from his merit.
For supposing the infinite dignity of his person, and his voluntary susception of our sin to answer for it, which altered not his state and condition, his obedience therein was highly meritorious.
In answer hereunto, and by virtue hereof, we are made “the righteousness of God in him.” This was the end of his being made sin for us. And by whom are we so made? It is by God himself: for “it is God that justifieth,” Romans 8:33; it is God who “imputeth righteousness,” chap. 4:6.
Wherefore it is the act of God in our justification that is intended; and to be made the righteousness of God is to be made righteous before God, though emphatically expressed by the abstract for the concrete, to answer what was said before of Christ being made sin for us. To be made the righteousness of God is to be justified; and to be made so in him, as he was made sin for us, is to be justified by the imputation of his righteousness unto us, as our sin was imputed unto him.
No man can assign any other way whereby he was made sin, especially his being made so by God, but by God’s laying all our iniquities upon him, — that is, imputing our sin unto him. How, then, are we made the righteousness of God in him? “By the infusion of a habit of grace,” say the Papists generally. Then, by the rule of antithesis, he must be made sin for us by the infusion of a habit of sin; which would be a blasphemous imagination. “By his meriting, procuring, and purchasing righteousness for us,” say others. So, possibly, we might be made righteous by him; but so we cannot be made righteous in him. This can only be by his righteousness as we are in him, or united unto him. To be righteous in him is to be righteous with his righteousness, as we are one mystical person with him.
Wherefore, — To be made the righteousness of God in Christ, as he was made sin for us, and because he was so, can be no other but to be made righteous by the imputation of his righteousness unto us, as we are in him or united unto him. All other expositions of these words are both jejune and forced, leading the mind from the first, plain, obvious sense of them.
Bellarmine excepts unto this interpretation, and it is his first argument against the imputation of the righteousness of Christ, lib. 2 cap. 7, De Justificatione, “Quinto refellitur quoniam si vere nobis imputetur justitia Christi ut per eam justi habeamur ac censeremur, ac si proprie nostra esset intrinseca formalisque justitia, profecto non minus justi haberi et censeri deberemus quam ipse Christus: proinde deberemus dici atque haberi redemptores, et salvatores mundi, quod est absurdissimum”. So full an answer has been returned hereunto, and that so frequently, by Protestant divines, as that I would not have mentioned it, but that divers among ourselves are pleased to borrow it from him and make use of it. “For,” say they, “if the righteousness of Christ be imputed unto us so as thereby to be made ours, then are we as righteous as Christ himself, because we are righteous with his righteousness.”
1. These things are plainly affirmed in the Scripture, that, as unto ourselves and in ourselves, “we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags,” Isaiah 64:6, on the one hand; and that “in the LORD we have righteousness and strength; in the LORD we are justified and do glory,” Isaiah 45:24,25, on the other; — that “if we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves:” and yet we are “the righteousness of God in Christ.”
Wherefore these things are consistent, whatever cavils the wit of men can raise against them; and so they must be esteemed, unless we will comply with Socinus’s rule of interpretation, — namely, that where any thing seems repugnant unto our reason, though it be never so expressly affirmed in the Scripture, we are not to admit of it, but find out some interpretation, though never so forced, to bring the sense of the words unto our reason. Wherefore, —
2. Notwithstanding the imputation of the righteousness of Christ unto us, and our being made righteous therewith, we are sinners in ourselves (the Lord knows greatly so, the best of us); and so cannot be said to be as righteous as Christ, but only to be made righteous in him who are sinners in ourselves.
But this is foolish and impious: for, notwithstanding all our personal righteousness, we are sinful; he knew no sin. And if the comparison be between Christ’s personal, inherent righteousness, and righteousness imputed unto us, inhesion and imputation being things of diverse kinds, it is fond and of no consequence. Christ was actively righteous; we are passively so. When our sin was imputed unto him, he did not thereby become a sinner as we are, actively and inherently a sinner; but passively only, and in God’s estimation. As he was made sin, yet knew no sin; so we are made righteous, yet are sinful in ourselves.
4. The righteousness of Christ, as it was his personally, was the righteousness of the Son of God, in which respect it had in itself an infinite perfection and value; but it is imputed unto us only with respect unto our personal want, — not as it was satisfactory for all, but as our souls stand in need of it, and are made partakers of it. There is, therefore, no ground for any such comparison.
5. As unto what is added by Bellarmine, that we may hereon be said to be redeemers and saviors of the world, the absurdity of the assertion falls upon himself; we are not concerned in it.
For he affirms directly, lib. 1, De Purgator., cap. 14, that “a man may be rightly called his own redeemer and savior;” which he endeavors to prove from Daniel 4. And some of his church affirm that the saints may be called the redeemers of others, though improperly. But we are not concerned in these things; seeing from the imputation of the righteousness of Christ, it follows only that those unto whom it is imputed are redeemed and saved, not at all that they are redeemers and saviors. It belongs also unto the vindication of this testimony to show the vanity of his seventh argument in the same case, because that also is made use of by some among ourselves; and it is this: “If by the righteousness of Christ imputed unto us, we may be truly said to be righteous, and the sons of God; then may Christ, by the imputation of our unrighteousness, be said to be a sinner, and a child of the devil.” Ans.
1. That which the Scripture affirms concerning the imputation of our sins unto Christ is, that “he was made sin for us.” This the Greek expositors, Chrysostom, Theophylact, and Oecumenius, with many others, take for “a sinner.” But all affirm that denomination to be taken from imputation only: he had sin imputed unto him, and underwent the punishment due unto it; as we have righteousness imputed unto us, and enjoy the benefit of it.
2. The imputation of sin unto Christ did not carry along with it any thing of the pollution or filth of sin, to be communicated unto him by transfusion, — a thing impossible; so that no denomination can thence arise which should include in it any respect unto them. A thought hereof is impious, and dishonorable unto the Son of God.
But his being made sin through the imputation of the guilt of sin, is his honor and glory.
3. The imputation of the sin of fornicators, idolaters, adulterers, etc., such as the Corinthians were before their conversion unto Christ, does not on any ground bring him under a denomination from those sins. For they were so in themselves actively, inherently, subjectively; and thence were so called. But that he who knew no sin, voluntarily taking on him to answer for the guilt of those sins, — which in him was an act of righteousness, and the highest obedience unto God, — should be said to be an idolater, etc., is a fond imagination. The denomination of a sinner from sin inherent, actually committed, defiling the soul, is a reproach, and significative of the utmost unworthiness; but even the denomination of a sinner by the imputation of sin, without the least personal guilt or defilement being undergone by him unto whom it is imputed, in an act of the highest obedience, and tending unto the greatest glory of God, is highly honorable and glorious But, —
4. The imputation of sin unto Christ was antecedent unto any real union between him and sinners, whereon he took their sin on him as he would, and for what ends he would; but the imputation of his righteousness unto believers is consequential in order of nature unto their union with him, whereby it becomes theirs in a peculiar manner: so as that there is not a parity of reason that he should be esteemed a sinner, as that they should be accounted righteous.
5. We acquiesce in this, that on the imputation of sin unto Christ, it is said that “God made him to be sin for us,” which he could not be, but thereby, — and he was so by an act transient in its effects, for a time only, that time wherein he underwent the punishment due unto it; but on the imputation of his righteousness unto us, we are “made the righteousness of God,” with an everlasting righteousness, that abides ours always.
6. To be a child of the devil by sin, is to do the works of the devil, John 8:44; but the Lord Christ, in taking our sins upon him, when imputed unto him, did the work of God in the highest act of holy obedience, evidencing himself to be the God of God thereby, and destroying the work of the devil. So foolish and impious is it to conceive that any absolute change of state or relation in him did ensue thereon.
That by “the righteousness of God,” in this place, our own faith and obedience according to the gospel, as some would have it, are intended, is so alien from the scope of the place and sense of the words, as that I shall not particularly examine it. The righteousness of God is revealed to faith, and received by faith; and is not therefore faith itself. And the force of the antithesis is quite perverted by this conceit; for where is it in this, — that he was made sin by the imputation of our sin unto him, and we are made righteousness by the imputation of our own faith and obedience unto ourselves? But as Christ had no concern in sin but as God made him sin, — it was never in him inherently; so have we no interest in this righteousness, — it is not in us inherently, but only is imputed unto us.
Besides, the act of God in making us righteous is his justifying of us. But this is not by the infusion of the habit of faith and obedience, as we have proved. And what act of God is intended by them who affirm that the righteousness of God which we are made is our own righteousness, I know not. The constitution of the gospel law it cannot be; for that makes no man righteous. And the persons of believers are the object of this act of God, and that as they are considered in Christ.
Galatians 2:16. The epistle of the same apostle unto the Galatians is wholly designed unto the vindication of the doctrine of justification by Christ, without the works of the law, with the use and means of its improvement. The sum of his whole design is laid down in the repetition of his words unto the apostle Peter, on the occasion of his failure, there related, chap. 2:16, “Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christy even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law; for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified.”
That which he does here assert, was such a known, such a fundamental principle of truth among all believers, that their conviction and knowledge of it was the ground and occasion of their transition and passing over from Judaism unto the gospel, and faith in Jesus Christ thereby.
And in the words, the apostle determines that great inquiry, how or by what means a man is or may be justified before God? The subject spoken of is expressed indefinitely: “A man,” that is, any man, a Jew, or a Gentile; a believer, or an unbeliever; the apostle that spoke, and they to whom he spoke, — the Galatians to whom he wrote, who also for some time had believed and made profession of the gospel.
The answer given unto the question is both negative and positive, both asserted with the highest assurance, and as the common faith of all Christians, but only those who had been carried aside from it by seducers.
He asserts that this is not, this cannot be, “by the works of the law.”
What is intended by “the law,” in these disputations of the apostle, has been before declared and evinced. The law of Moses is sometimes signally intended, — not absolutely, but as it was the present instance of men’s cleaving unto the law of righteousness, and not submitting themselves thereon unto the righteousness of God. But that the consideration of the moral law, and the duties of it, is in this argument anywhere excepted by him, is a weak imagination, yea, it would except the ceremonial law itself; for the observation of it, whilst it was in force, was a duty of the moral law.
And the works of the law are the works and duties of obedience which this law of God requires, performed in the manner that it prescribes, — namely, in faith, and out of love unto God above all; as has been proved.
To say that the apostle excludeth only works absolutely perfect, which none ever did or could perform since the entrance of sin, is to suppose him to dispute, with great earnestness and many arguments, against that which no man asserted, and which he does not once mention in all his discourse.
Nor can he be said to exclude only works that are looked on as meritorious, seeing he excludes all works, that there may be no place for merit in our justification; as has also been proved. Nor did these Galatians, whom he writes unto, and convinces them of their error, look for justification from any works but such as they performed then, when they were believers. So that all sorts of works are excluded from any interest in our justification. And so much weight does the apostle lay on this exclusion of works from our justification, as that he affirms that the admittance of it overthrows the whole gospel, verse 21: “For,” says he, “if righteousness be by the law, then Christ is dead in vain;” and it is dangerous venturing on so sharp a fence.
Not this or that sort of works; not this or that manner of the performance of them; not this or that kind of interest in our justification; but all works, of what sort soever, and however performed, are excluded from any kind of consideration in our justification, as our works or duties of obedience.
For these Galatians, whom the apostle reproves, desired no more but that, in the justification of a believer, works of the law, or duties of obedience, might be admitted into a conjunction or copartnership with faith in Christ Jesus; for that they would exclude faith in him, and assign justification unto works without it, nothing is intimated, and it is a foolish imagination.
In opposition hereunto he positively ascribes our justification unto faith in Christ alone. “Not by works, but by faith,” is by faith alone. That the particles “ean me” are not exceptive but adversative, has not only been undeniably proved by Protestant divines, but is acknowledged by those of the Roman church who pretend unto any modesty in this controversy.
The words of Estius on this place deserve to be transcribed: “Nisi per fidem Jesu Christi; sententiam reddit obscuram particula nisi” (so the Vulgar Latin renders “ean me”, instead of “sed” or “sed tantum”) “quae si proprie ut Latinis auribus sonat accipiatur, exceptionem facit ab eo quod praecedit, ut sensus sit hominem non justificari ex operibus Legis nisi fidees in Christum ad ea opera accedat, quae si accesserit justificari eum per legis opera. Sed cum hic sensus justificationem dividat, partim eam tribuens operibus legis, partim fidei Christi, quod est contra definitam et absolutam apostoli sententiam, manifestum est, inter pretationem illam tanquam apostolico sensui et scopo contrariam omnino repudiandam esse.
Verum constat voculam ‘nisi’ frequenter in Scripturis adversative sumi, utidem valeat quod ‘sed tantum’”. So he according to his usual candor and ingenuity.
The interpretation of this place, given as the meaning of the apostle, that men cannot be justified by those works which they cannot perform, that is, works absolutely perfect; but may be so, and are so, by those which they can and do perform, if not in their own strength, yet by the aid of grace; and that faith in Christ Jesus, which the apostle opposes absolutely unto all works whatever, does include in it all those works which he excludes, and that with respect unto that end or effect with respect whereunto they are excluded; cannot well be supposed to be suitable unto the mind of the Holy Ghost.
Unless it had seemed good unto the Holy Ghost to have expressed beforehand all the evasions and subterfuges which the wit of man in after ages could invent, to pervert the doctrine of our justification before God, and to have rejected them, it is impossible they could have been more plainly prevented than they are in this context. If we may take a little unprejudiced consideration of it, I suppose what is affirmed will be eviDeuteronomy It cannot be denied but that the design of the apostle, from the beginning of this chapter unto the end of verse 11, is to declare the way whereby lost and condemned sinners come to be delivered, and translated out of that condition into an estate of acceptance with God, and eternal salvation thereon. And therefore, in the first place, he fully describes their natural state, with their being obnoxious unto the wrath of God thereby; for such was the method of this apostle, — unto the declaration of the grace of God in any kind, he did usually, yea, constantly, premise the consideration of our sin, misery, and ruin. Others, now, like not this method so well.
Howbeit this hinders not but that it was his. Unto this purpose he declares unto the Ephesians that they “were dead in trespasses and sins,” expressing the power that sin had on their souls as unto spiritual life, and all the actions of it; but withal, that they lived and walked in sin, and on all accounts were the “children of wrath,” or subject and liable unto eternal condemnation, verses 1-3. What such persons can do towards their own deliverance, there are many terms found out to express, all passing my understanding, seeing the entire design of the apostle is to prove that they can do nothing at all. But another cause, or other causes of it, he finds out, and that in direct, express opposition unto any thing that may be done by ourselves unto that end: “Ho de Theos plousios oon en ele-ei”, verse 4. It is not a work for us to undertake; it is not what we can contribute any thing unto: “But God, who is rich in mercy.” The adversative includes an opposition unto every thing on our part, and encloses the whole work to God. Would men have rested on this divine revelation, the church of God had been free from many of those perverse opinions and wrangling disputes which it has been pestered withal. But they will not so easily part with thoughts of some kind of interest in being the authors of their own happiness. Wherefore, two things we may observe in the apostle’s assignation of the causes of our deliverance from a state of sin, and (of our) acceptance with God: —
2. He magnifies this grace in a marvelous manner. For, — First, He expresses it by all names and titles whereby it is signified; as “eleos”, “agape”, “charis”, “chrestotes”, — “mercy,” “love,” “grace,” and “kindness:” for he would have us to look only unto grace herein. Secondly, He ascribes such adjuncts, and gives such epithets, unto that divine mercy and grace, which is the sole cause of our deliverance, in and by Jesus Christ, as rendered it singular, and herein solely to be adored: “plousios en ele-ei, die ten pollen agapen; hupertalloon ploutos tes charitos”; — “rich in mercy;” “great love wherewith he loved us;” “the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness,” verses 4-7. It cannot reasonably be denied but that the apostle does design deeply to affect the mind and heart of believers with a sense of the grace and love of God in Christ, as the only cause of their justification before God. I think no words can express those conceptions of the mind which this representation of grace does suggest.
Whether they think it any part of their duty to be like minded, and comply with the apostle in this design, who scarce ever mention the grace of God, unless it be in a way of diminution from its efficacy, and unto whom such ascriptions unto it as are here made by him are a matter of contempt, is not hard to judge.
But it will be said, “These are good words, indeed, but they are only general; there is nothing of argument in all this adoring of the grace of God in the work of our salvation.” It may be so, it seems, to many; but yet, to speak plainly, there is to me more argument in this one consideration, — namely, of the ascription made in this cause unto the grace of God in this place, — than in a hundred sophisms, suited neither unto the expressions of the Scripture nor the experience of them that do believe. He that is possessed with a due apprehension of the grace of God, as here represented, and under a sense that it was therein the design of the Holy Ghost to render it glorious and alone to be trusted unto, will not easily be induced to concern himself in those additional supplies unto it from our own works and obedience which some would suggest unto him. But we may yet look farther into the words.
The case which the apostle states, the inquiry which he has in hand, whereon he determines as to the truth wherein he instructs the Ephesians, and in them the whole church of God, is, how a lost, condemned sinner may come to be accepted with God, and thereon saved? And this is the sole inquiry wherein we are, or intend in this controversy to be, concerned.
Farther we will not proceed, either upon the invitation or provocation of any. Concerning this, his position and determination is, “That we are saved by grace.”
This first he occasionally interposes in his enumeration of the benefits we receive by Christ, verse 5. But not content therewith, he again directly asserts it, verse 8, in the same words; for he seems to have considered how slow men would be in the admittance of this truth, which at once deprives them of all boastings in themselves.
What it is that he intends by our being saved must be inquired into. It would not be prejudicial unto, but rather advance the truth we plead for, if, by our being saved, eternal salvation were intended. But that cannot be the sense of it in this place, otherwise than as that salvation is included in the causes of it, which are effectual in this life. Nor do I think that in that expression, “By grace are ye saved,” our justification only is intended, although it be so principally. (conversion unto God and sanctification are also included therein, as is evident from verses 5, 6; and they are no less of sovereign grace than is our justification itself. But the apostle speaks of what the Ephesians, being now believers, and by virtue of their being so, were made partakers of in this life. This is manifest in the whole context; for having, in the beginning of the chapter, described their condition, what it was, in common with all the posterity of Adam, by nature, verses 1-3, he moreover declares their condition in particular, in opposition to that of the Jews, as they were Gentiles, idolaters, atheists, verses 11, 12. Their present delivery by Jesus Christ from this whole miserable state and condition, — that which they were under in common with all mankind, and that which was a peculiar aggravation of its misery in themselves, — is that which he intends by their being “saved.” That which was principally designed in the description of this state is, that therein and thereby they were liable unto the wrath of God, guilty before him, and obnoxious unto his judgment. This he expresses in the declaration of it, verse 3, — answerable unto that method and those grounds he everywhere proceeds on, in declaring the doctrine of justification. Romans 3:19-24; Titus 3:3-5. From this state they had deliverance by faith in Christ Jesus; for unto as many as receive him, power is given to be the sons of God, John 1:12. “He that believeth on him is not condemned;” that is, he is saved, in the sense of the apostle in this place, John 3:18. “He that believeth on the Son has everlasting life” (is saved); “and he that believeth not the Son, the wrath of God abideth on him,” verse 36. And in this sense, “saved,” and “salvation,” are frequently used in the Scripture.
Besides, he gives us so full a description of the salvation which he intends, from Ephesians 2:13 unto the end of the chapter, that there can be no doubt of it. It is our being “made nigh by the blood of Christ,” verse 13; our “peace” with God by his death, verses 14, 15; our “reconciliation” by the blood of the “cross,” verse 16; our “access unto God;” and all spiritual privileges thereon depending, verses 18-20, etc.
Wherefore, the inquiry of the apostle, and his determination thereon, is concerning the causes of our justification before God. This he declares, and fixes both positively and negatively. Positively, —
1. In the supreme moving cause on the part of God; this is that free, sovereign grace and love of his, which he illustrates by its adjuncts and properties before mentioned.
3. In the only means or instrumental cause on our part; which is faith: “By grace are ye saved through faith,” verse 8. And lest he should seem to derogate any thing from the grace of God, in asserting the necessity and use of faith, he adds that epanorthosis,” And that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God.” The communication of this faith unto us is no less of grace than is the justification which we obtain thereby. So has he secured the whole work unto the grace of God through Christ; wherein we are interested by faith alone.
1. What it is he so excludes.
2. The reason whereon he does so.
3. The confirmation of that reason, wherein he obviates an objection that might arise thereon: —
1. That which he excludes is works: “Not of works,” verse 9. And what works he intends, at least principally, himself declares. “Works,” say some, “of the law, the law of Moses.” But what concernment had these Ephesians therein, that the apostle should inform them that they were not justified by those works? They were never under that law, never sought for righteousness by it, nor had any respect unto it, but only that they were delivered from it. But it may be he intends only works wrought in the strength of our own natural abilities, without the aids of grace, and before believing. But what were the works of these Ephesians antecedent unto believing, he before and afterwards declares. For, “being dead in trespasses and sins,” they “walked according to the course of this world in the lusts of the flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind,” verses 1-3. It is certain enough that these works have no influence into our justification; and no less certain that the apostle had no reason to exclude them from it, as though any could pretend to be advantaged by them, in that which consists in a deliverance from them. Wherefore, the works here excluded by the apostle are those works which the Ephesians now performed, when they were believers, quickened with Christ; even the “works which God has before ordained that we should walk in them,” as he expressly declared, verse 10. And these works he excludes, not only in opposition unto grace, but in opposition unto faith also: “Through faith; not of works.” Wherefore he does not only reject their merit, as inconsistent with grace, but their co-interest on our part with, or subsequent interest unto faith, in the work of justification before God.
If we are saved by grace, through faith in Christ, exclusively unto all works of obedience whatever, then cannot such works be the whole or any part of our righteousness unto the justification of life: wherefore, another righteousness we must have, or perish for ever. Many things I know are here offered, and many distinctions coined, to retain some interest of works in our justification before God; but whether it be the safest way to trust unto them, or unto this plain, express, divine testimony, will not be hard for any to determine, when they make the case their own.
2. The apostle adds a reason of this exclusion of works: “Not of works, lest any man should boast.” God has ordained the order and method of our justification by Christ in the way expressed, that no man might have ground, reason, or occasion to glory or boast in or of himself. So it is expressed, 1 Corinthians 1:21,30,31; Romans 3:27. To exclude all glorying or boasting on our part is the design of God. And this consists in an ascription of something unto ourselves that is not in others, in order unto justification. And it is works alone that can administer any occasion of this boasting: “For if Abraham were justified by works, he has whereof to glory,” chap. 4:2. And it is excluded alone by the “law of faith,” chap. 3:27; for the nature and use of faith is to find righteousness in another.
And this boasting all works are apt to beget in the minds of men, if applied unto justification; and where there is any boasting of this nature, the design of God towards us in this work of his grace is frustrated what lies in us.
That which I principally insist on from hence is, that there are no boundaries fixed in Scripture unto the interest of works in justification, so as no boasting should be included in them. The Papists make them meritorious of it, — at least of our second justification, as they call it. “This,” say some, “ought not to be admitted, for it includes boasting.
Merit and boasting are inseparable.” Wherefore, say others, they are only “causa sine qua non,” they are the condition of it; or they are our evangelical righteousness before God, whereon we are evangelically justified; or they are a subordinate righteousness whereon we obtain an interest in the righteousness of Christ; or are comprised in the condition of the new covenant whereby we are justified; or are included in faith, being the form of it, or of the essence of it, one way or other: for herein men express themselves in great variety. But so long as our works are hereby asserted in order unto our justification, how shall a man be certain that they do not include boasting, or that they do express the true sense of these words, “Not of works, lest any man should boast?” There is some kind of ascription unto ourselves in this matter; which is boasting. If any shall say that they know well enough what they do, and know that they do not boast in what they ascribe unto works, I must say that in general I cannot admit it; for the Papists affirm of themselves that they are most remote from boasting, yet I am very well satisfied that boasting and merit are inseparable. The question is, not what men think they do? but, what judgment the Scripture passes on what they do? And if it be said, that what is in us is also of the grace and gift of God, and is so acknowledged, which excludes all boasting in ourselves; I say it was so by the Pharisee, and yet was he a horrible boaster. Let them, therefore, be supposed to be wrought in us in what way men please, if they be also wrought by us, and so be the “works of righteousness which we have done,” I fear their introduction into our justification does include boasting in it, because of this assertion of the apostle, “Not of works, lest any man should boast.”
Wherefore, because this is a dangerous point, unless men can give us the direct, plain, indisputable bounds of the introduction of our works into our justification, which cannot include boasting in it, it is the safest course utterly to exclude them, wherein I see no danger of any mistake in these words of the Holy Ghost, “Not of works, lest any man should boast;” for if we should be unadvisedly seduced into this boasting, we should lose all the benefits which we might otherwise expect by the grace of God.
3. The apostle gives another reason why it cannot be of works, and withal obviates an objection which might arise from what he had declared, Ephesians 2:10, “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God has before ordained that we should walk in them.” And the force of his reason, which the causal conjunction intimates the introduction of, consists in this: — that all good works, — those concerning which he treats, evangelical works, — are the effects of the grace of God in them that are in Christ Jesus, and so are truly justified antecedently in order of nature unto them. But that which he principally designed in these words was that which he is still mindful of, wherever he treats of this doctrine, — namely, to obviate an objection that he foresaw some would make against it; and that is this, “If good works be thus excluded from our justification before God, then of what use are they? We may live as we list, utterly neglect them, and yet be justified.” And this very objection do some men continue to manage with great vehemency against the same doctrine. We meet with nothing in this cause more frequently, than that “if our justification before God be not of works, some way or other, if they be not antecedaneously required whereunto, if they are not a previous condition of it, then there is no need of them, — men may safely live in an utter neglect of all obedience unto God.” And on this theme men are very apt to enlarge themselves, who otherwise give no great evidences of their own evangelical obedience. To me it is marvelous that they heed not unto what party they make an accession in the management of this objection, — namely, unto that of them who were the adversaries of the doctrine of grace taught by the apostle. It must be elsewhere considered. For the present, I shall say no more but that, if the answer here given by the apostle be not satisfactory unto them, — if the grounds and reasons of the necessity and use of good works here declared be not judged by them sufficient to establish them in their proper place and order, — I shall not esteem myself obliged to attempt their farther satisfaction.
Philippians 3:8,9. “Yea, doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ, and be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith”.
This is the last testimony which I shall insist upon, and although it be of great importance, I shall be the more brief in the consideration of it, because it has been lately pleaded and vindicated by another, whereunto I do not expect any tolerable reply. For what has since been attempted by one, it is of no weight; he is in this matter “oute tritos oute tetartos”. And the things that I would observe from and concerning this testimony may be reduced into the ensuing heads: —
1. That which the apostle designs, from the beginning of this chapter, and in these verses, is, in an especial manner, to declare what it is on the account whereof we are accepted with God, and have thereon cause to rejoice. This he fixes in general in an interest in, and participation of, Christ by faith, in opposition unto all legal privileges and advantages, wherein the Jews, whom he reflected upon, did boast and rejoice: “Rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh,” verse 3.
2. He supposes that unto that acceptance before God wherein we are to rejoice, there is a righteousness necessary; and, whatever it be, (it) is the sole ground of that acceptance. And to give evidence hereunto, —
3. He declares that there is a twofold righteousness that may be pleaded and trusted unto to this purpose: —
(1.) “Our own righteousness, which is of the law.” (2.) “That which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith.” These he asserts to be opposite and inconsistent, as unto the end of our justification and acceptance with God: “Not having mine own righteousness, but that which is,” etc.
And an intermediate righteousness between these he acknowledges not.
4. Placing the instance in himself, he declares emphatically (so as there is scarce a greater orator, or vehemency of speech, in all his writings) which of these it was that he adhered unto, and placed his confidence in. And in the handling of this subject, there were some things which engaged his holy mind into an earnestness of expression in the exaltation of one of these, — namely, of the righteousness which is of God by faith; and the depression of the other, or his own righteousness. As, —
(1.) This was the turning point whereon he and others had forsaken their Judaism, and betaken themselves unto the gospel. This, therefore, was to be secured as the main instance, wherein the greatest controversy that ever was in the world was debated. So he expresses it, Galatians 2:15,16, “We who are Jews by nature, and not sinners of the Gentiles, knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law.” (2.) Hereon there was great opposition made unto this doctrine by the Jews in all places, and in many of them the minds of multitudes were turned off from the truth which the most are generally prone unto in this case), and perverted from the simplicity of the gospel.
This greatly affected his holy soul, and he takes notice of it in most of his epistles (3.) The weight of the doctrine itself, with that unwillingness which is in the minds of men by nature to embrace it, as that which lays the axe to the root of all spiritual pride, elation of mind, and self-pleasing whatever, — whence innumerable subterfuges have been, and are, sought out to avoid the efficacy of it, and to keep the souls of men from that universal resignation of themselves unto sovereign grace in Christ, which they have naturally such an aversation unto, — did also affect him.
(4.) He had himself been a great sinner in the days of his ignorance, by a peculiar opposition unto Christ and the gospel. This he was deeply sensible of, and wherewithal of the excellency of the grace of God and the righteousness of Christ, whereby he was delivered. And men must have some experience of what he felt in himself as unto sin and grace, before they can well understand his expressions about them.
5. Hence it was that, in many other places of his writings, but in this especially, he treats of these things with a greater earnestness and vehemency of spirit than ordinary. Thus, —
(1.) On the part of Christ, whom he would exalt, he mentions not only the knowledge of him, but “to huperechon tes gnooseoos”, — “the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord,” with an emphasis in every word. And those other redoubled expressions, “all loss for him;” “that I may win him;” “that I may be found in him;” “that I may know him,” — all argue the working of his affections, under the conduct of faith and truth, unto an acquiescence in Christ alone, as all, and in all. Somewhat of this frame of mind is necessary unto them that would believe his doctrine. Those who are utter strangers unto the one will never receive the other.
(2.) In his expression of all other things that are our own, that are not Christ, whether privileges or duties, however good, useful, excellent they may be in themselves, yet, in comparison of Christ and his righteousness, and with respect unto the end of our standing before God, and acceptance with him, with the same vehemency of spirit he casts contempt upon (them), calling them “skutala”, — “dog’s meat,” to be left for them whom he calls “dogs;” that is, evil workers of the concision, or the wicked Jews who adhered pertinaciously unto the righteousness of the law, Philippians 3:2. This account of the earnestness of the apostle in this argument, and the warmth of his expressions, I thought meet to give, as that which gives light into the whole of his design.
6. The question being thus stated, the inquiry is, what any person, who desires acceptance with God, or a righteousness whereon he may be justified before him, ought to retake himself unto one of the ways proposed he must close withal. Either he must comply with the apostle in his resolution to reject all his own righteousness, and to retake himself unto the righteousness of God, which is by faith in Christ Jesus alone, or find out for himself, or get some to find out for him, some exceptions unto the apostle’s conclusion, or some distinctions that may prepare a reserve for his own works, one way or other, in his justification before God. Here every one must choose for himself. In the meantime, we thus argue: — If our own righteousness, and the righteousness which is of God by faith, or that which is through the faith of Christ Jesus (namely, the righteousness which God imputes unto us, Romans 4:6, or the abundance of grace and the gift of righteousness thereby which we receive, chap. 5:17), are opposite and inconsistent in the work of justification before God, then are we justified by faith alone, through the imputation of the righteousness of Christ unto us. The consequent is plain, from the removal of all other ways, causes, means, and conditions of it, as inconsistent with it. But the antecedent is expressly the apostle’s: “Not my own, but that of God.”
Again, — That whereby and wherewith we are “found in Christ” is that whereby alone we are justified before God; for to be found in Christ expresseth the state of the person that is to be justified before God; whereunto is opposed to be found in ourselves. And according unto these different states does the judgment of God pass concerning us. And as for those who are found in themselves, we know what will be their portion. But in Christ we are found by faith alone.
All manner of evasions are made use of by some to escape the force of this testimony. It is said, in general, that no sober-minded man can imagine the apostle did not desire to be found in gospel righteousness, or that by his own righteousness he meant that; for it is that alone can entitle us unto the benefits of Christ’s righteousness. “Nollem dictum.” (1.) The censure is too severe to be cast on all Protestant writers, without exception, who have expounded this place of the apostle; and all others, except some few of late, influenced by the heat of the controversy wherein they are engaged.
(2.) If the gospel righteousness intended be his own personal righteousness and obedience, there is some want of consideration in affirming that he did desire to be found in it. That wherein we are found, thereon are we to be judged. To be found in our own evangelical righteousness before God, is to enter into judgment with God thereon; which those who understand any thing aright of God and themselves will not be free unto. And to make this to be the meaning of his words: “I desire not to be found in my own righteousness which is after the law, but I desire to be found in mine own righteousness which is according to the gospel,” whereas, as they are his own inherent righteousness, they are both the same, — doth not seem a proper interpretation of his words; and it shall be immediately disproved.
(3.) That our personal gospel righteousness does entitle us unto the benefits of Christ’s righteousness, — that is, as unto our justification before God, — is “gratis dictum;” not one testimony of Scripture can be produced that gives the least countenance unto such an assertion. That it is contrary unto many express testimonies, and inconsistent with the freedom of the grace of God in our justification, as proposed in the Scripture, has been proved before. Nor do any of the places which assert the necessity of obedience and good works in believers, — that is, justified persons, — unto salvation, any way belong unto the proof of this assertion, or in the least express or intimate any such thing; and, in particular, the assertion of it is expressly contradictory unto that of the apostle, Titus 3:4,5. But I forbear, and proceed to the consideration of the special answers that are given unto this testimony, especially those of Bellarmine, whereunto I have as yet seen nothing added with any pretense of reason in it: —
1. Some say that by his own righteousness, which the apostle rejects, he intends only his righteousness “ek nomou”, or “by the works of the law.”
But this was only an outward, external righteousness, consisting in the observation of rites and ceremonies, without respect unto the inward frame or obedience of the heart. But this is an impious imagination. The righteousness which is by the law is the righteousness which the law requires, and those works of it which if a man do he shall live in them; for “the doers of the law shall be justified,” Romans 2:13. Neither did God ever give any law of obedience unto man, but what obliged him to “love the LORD his God with all his heart, and all his soul.” And it is so far from being true, that God by the law required an external righteousness only, that he frequently condemns it as an abomination to him, where it is alone.
2. Others say that it is the righteousness, whatever it be, which he had during his Pharisaism. And although he should be allowed, in that state, to have “lived in all good conscience, instantly to have served God day and night,” and to have had respect as well unto the internal as the external works of the law; yet all these works, being before faith, before conversion to God, may be, and are to be, rejected as unto any concurrence unto our justification. But works wrought in faith, by the aid of grace, — evangelical works, — are of another consideration, and, together with faith, are the condition of justification.
1. That, in the matter of our justification, the apostle opposes evangelical works, not only unto the grace of God, but also unto the faith of believers, was proved in the consideration of the foregoing testimony.
2. He makes no such distinction as that pretended, — namely, that works are of two sorts, whereof one is to be excluded from any interest in our justification, but not the other; neither does he anywhere else, treating of the same subject, intimate any such distinction, but, on the contrary, declares that use of all works of obedience in them that believe which is exclusive of the supposition of any such distinction: but he directly expresses, in this rejection, his own righteousness, — that is, his personal, inherent righteousness, — whatever it be, and however it be wrought.
3. He makes a plain distinction of his own twofold estate, — namely, that of his Judaism which he was in before his conversion, and that which he had by faith in Christ Jesus. In the first state, he considers the privileges of it, and declares what judgment he made concerning them upon the revelation of Jesus Christ unto him: “hegemai”, says he, referring unto the time past, — namely, at his first conversion “I considered them, with all the advantages, gain, and reputation which I had by them; but rejected them all for Christ: because the esteem of them and continuance in them as privileges, was inconsistent with faith in Christ Jesus.” Secondly, he proceeds to give an account of himself and his thoughts, as unto his present condition. For it might be supposed that although he had parted with all his legal privileges for Christ, yet now, being united unto him by faith, he had something of his own wherein he might rejoice, and on the account whereof he might be accepted with God (the thing inquired after), or else he had parted with all for nothing. Wherefore, he, who had no design to make any reserves of what he might glory in, plainly declares what his judgment is concerning all his present righteousness, and the ways of obedience which he was now engaged in, with respect unto the ends inquired after, Philippians 3:8: “Alla menounge kai hegoumai”. The bringing over of what was affirmed before concerning his Judaical privileges into this verse, is an effect of a very superficiary consideration of the context. For, —
(1.) There is a plain “auxesis” in these words, “Alla menounge kai”.
He could not more plainly express the heightening of what he had affirmed by a proceed unto other things, or the consideration of himself in another state: “But, moreover, beyond what I have already asserted.” (2.) The change of the time expressed by “hegemai”, (which) respects what was past, into “hegoumai”, wherein he has respect only unto what was present, not what he had before rejected and forsaken, makes evident his progress unto the consideration of things of another nature. Wherefore, unto the rejection of all his former Judaical privileges, he adds his judgment concerning his own present personal righteousness. But whereas it might be objected, that, rejecting all both before and after conversion, he had nothing left to rejoice in, to glory in, to give him acceptance with God; he assures us of the contrary, — namely, that he found all these things in Christ, and the righteousness of God which is by faith. He is therefore in these words, “Not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law,” so far from intending only the righteousness which he had before his conversion, as that he intends it not at all.
The words of Davenant on this passage of the apostle, being in my judgment not only sober, but weighty also, I shall transcribe them: “Hic docet apostolus quaenam illa justitia sit qua nitendum coram Deo, nimirum quae per fidem apprehenditur, at haec imputate est: Causam etiam ostendit curjure nostra fiat, nimirum quia nos Christi sumus et in Christo comperimur; quia igitur insiti sumus in corpus ejus et coalescimus cumillo in unam personam, ideo ejus justitia nostra reputtur”, De Justif. Habit. cap.
38. For whereas some begin to interpret our being “in Christ,” and being “found in him,” so as to intend no more but our profession of the faith of the gospel, the faith of the catholic church in all ages concerning the mystical union of Christ and believers, is not to be blown away with a few empty words and unproved assertions.
(1.) The apostle rejects, disclaims, disowns, nothing at all, not the one nor the other absolutely, but in comparison of Christ, and with respect unto the especial end of justification before God, or a righteousness in his sight.
(2.) In that sense he rejects all our own righteousness; but our evangelical righteousness, in the sense pleaded for, is our own, inherent in us, performed by us.
(3.) Our legal righteousness, and our evangelical, so far as an inherent righteousness is intended, are the same; and the different ends and use of the same righteousness are alone intended in that distinction, so far as it has sense in it. That which in respect of motives unto it, the ends of it, with the especial causes of its acceptance with God, is evangelical; in respect of its original prescription, rule, and measure, is legal. When any can instance in any act or duty, in any habit or effect of it, which is not required by that law which enjoins us to love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, and mind, and our neighbor as ourselves, they shall be attended unto.
(5.) He disclaims all that is our own. And if the evangelical righteousness intended be our own, he sets up another in opposition unto it; and which, therefore, is not our own, but as it is imputed unto us.
And I shall yet add some other reasons which render this pretense useless, or show the falseness of it: —
(1.) Where the apostle does not distinguish or limit what he speaks of, what ground have we to distinguish or limit his assertions? “Not by works,” says he sometimes, absolutely; sometimes “the works of righteousness which we have done.” “That is, not by some sort of works,” say those who plead the contrary. But by what warrant? (2.) The works which they pretend to be excluded, as wherein our own righteousness that is rejected does consist, are works wrought without faith, without the aid of grace: but these are not good works, nor can any be denominated righteous from them, nor is it any righteousness that consists in them alone; for “without faith it is impossible to please God.” And to what purpose should the apostle exclude evil works and hypocritical from our justification? Whoever imagined that any could be justified with respect unto them? There might have been some pretense for this gloss, had the apostle said his own works; but whereas he rejects his own righteousness, to restrain it unto such works as are not righteous, as will denominate none righteous, as are no righteousness at all, is most absurd.
(3.) Works wrought in faith, if applied unto our justification, do give occasion unto, or include boasting, more than any others, as being better and more praiseworthy than they.
(4.) The apostle elsewhere excludes from justification the works that Abraham had done, when he had been a believer many years; and the works of David, when he described the blessedness of a man by the forgiveness of sins.
(5.) The state of the question which he handles in his Epistle unto the Galatians, was expressly about the works of them that did believe; for he does not dispute against the Jews, who would not be pressed in the least with his arguments, — namely, that if the inheritance were by the law, then the promise was of none effect; and if righteousness were by the law, then did Christ die in vain; for these things they would readily grant. But he speaks unto them that were believers, with respect unto those works which they would have joined with Christ and the gospel, in order unto justification.
(6.) If this were the mind of the apostle, that he would exclude one sort of works, and assert the necessity of another unto the same end, why did he not once say so — especially considering how necessary it was that so he should do, to answer those objections against his doctrine which he himself takes notice of and returns answer unto on other grounds, without the least intimation of any such distinction?
Bellarmine considers this testimony in three places, lib. 1 cap. 18, lib. cap. 19, lib. 5 cap. 5, De Justificat. And he returns three answers unto it; which contain the substance of all that is pleaded by others unto the same purpose: He says, —
(1.) “That the righteousness which is by the law, and which is opposed unto the righteousness which is by faith, is not the righteousness written in the law, or which the law requires, but a righteousness wrought without the aid of grace, by the knowledge of the law alone.” (2.) “That the righteousness which is by the faith of Christ is ‘opera nostra justa facta ex fide’, — our own righteous works wrought in faith; which others call our evangelical works.” (3.) “That it is blasphemous to call the duties of inherent righteousness “dzemian kai skutala”, —’loss and dung.’” But he labors in the fire with all big sophistry.
For as to the first, —
(1.) That by the righteousness which is by the law, the righteousness which the law requires is not intended, is a bold assertion, and expressly contradictory unto the apostle, Romans 9:31; 10:5. In both places he declares the righteousness of the law to be the righteousness that the law requires.
Unto the second, I say, —
(1.) That the substance of it is, that the apostle should profess, “I desire to be found in Christ, not having my own righteousness, but having my own righteousness;” for evangelical inherent righteousness was properly his own. And I am sorry that some should apprehend that the apostle, in these words, did desire to be found in his own righteousness in the presence of God, in order unto his justification; for nothing can be more contrary, not only unto the perpetual tenor and design of all his discourses on this subject, but also unto the testimony of all other holy men in the Scripture to the same purpose; as we have proved before.
And I suppose there are very few true believers at present whom they will find to comply and join with them in this desire of being found in their own personal evangelical righteousness, or the works of righteousness which they have done, in their trial before God, as unto their justification. We should do well to read our own hearts, as well as the books of others, in this matter.
(2.) “The righteousness which is of God by faith,” is not our own obedience or righteousness, but that which is opposed unto it; that which God imputes unto us, Romans 4:6; that which we receive by way of gift, chap. 5:17.
(3.) That by “the righteousness which is through the faith of Christ;” our own inherent righteousness is not intended, is evident from hence, that the apostle excludes all his own righteousness, as and when he was found in Christ; that is, whatever he had done as a believer. And if there be not an opposition in these words, between a righteousness that is our own and that which is not our own, I know not in what words it can be expressed.
Unto the third, I say, —
(1.) The apostle does not, nor do we say that he does, call our inherent righteousness “dung;” but only that he “counts” it so.
(2.) He does not account it so absolutely, which he is most remote from; but only in comparison with Christ.
(3.) He does not esteem it so in itself; but only as unto his trust in it with respect unto one especial end, — namely, our justification before God.
(4.) The prophet Isaiah, in the same respect, terms all our righteousness “filthy rags,” chap. 64:6; and “beged ‘idim” is an expression of as much contempt as “skutala”.
(1.) Whatever the apostle excludes, he does it absolutely, and with all respects; because he sets up something else in opposition unto it.
(1.) That we be found in Christ, not in ourselves.
(2.) That we have the righteousness of God, not our own.
(3.) That we be made partakers of this righteousness by faith; which is the substance of what we plead for.